- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 6, 2014

SELMA, Ala. (AP) - A handful of activists held a mock funeral procession for voting rights Wednesday in Selma and decried court decisions that they said have eviscerated the historic Voting Rights Act, signed nearly 50 years ago.

Leaders of a coalition called the Save OurSelves Movement called on Congress to restore parts of the law that have been eliminated. They also proposed designating Aug. 6 as national “Voting Rights Day” to commemorate the signing of the voting rights law on Aug. 6, 1965.

Attorney Faya Rose Sanders, one of the coalition’s leaders, said new election regulations at the state level are also problematic.

“When you require a voter ID, when you require somebody to get a birth certificate to vote that is an indirect way of re-imposing the poll tax which was eliminated by President Johnson through the Voting Rights Act,” said Sanders, wife of Alabama state Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma. “We know that poll taxes and the grandfather clause and all these challenges were placed upon us to take away that right to vote and it took a hundred years to get it back.”

Alabama elections officials said earlier this year that registrar’s offices in every county and the secretary of state’s office in the State Capitol would offer free voter IDs. Alabama election officials also said the state planned to dispatch vans to offer free voter IDs to residents throughout the state.

Sanders and other group members spoke at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, near the scene of “Bloody Sunday” where a group of demonstrators marching to secure voting rights for blacks were beaten by police in 1965. National outrage over the beatings helped produce pressure to pass the Voting Rights Act.

The nation’s highest court last year struck down part of the law that said election law changes in the South and some other parts of the country must be cleared in advance by the U.S. Justice Department.

National Voting Rights Museum and Institute Historian Sam Walker said last year’s Supreme Court decision essentially killed the law’s effectiveness.

“So we decided to hold a memorial and a funeral procession letting people know that this has actually happened, that the Voting Rights Act is dead and we need to do something to resurrect it,” Walker said of the procession, which featured black and white hearses.

The Alabama-based SOS Movement lists more than 40 organizations as members.

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