Freedom Riders Protest Changes To Voting Law

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By Alabama News Network

A group of Alabama activists is on its way to Washington, D.C. to protest changes to the voting rights act.

 
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the voting rights act last year, which this group says is leading to discrimination in the state. 
 
The group held a rally on the steps of the capitol.
 
One of their main issues is with the new voter ID law that goes into effect in Alabama this year that they say targets the poor. 
 
But the Secretary of State says the law covers everyone equally. 
 
The Freedom Riders Caravan unloaded on the steps of the capitol, ready to show the state that, it says, we need the Voting Rights Act completely restored. 
 
The US Supreme Court cut out part of the act last year, which required some states to get federal approval before changing election law. this group says they see the right to vote under attack. 
 
"It was the supreme court of the land that took the heart out of the voting rights act. We want to put the heart back in the voting rights act and we want it fully restored," said Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford.
 
The Freedom Riders are also concerned about the new voter ID law going into effect this year. In order to vote, you will have to show a photo ID. For most, a driver's license will work, but if you don't have one or another state ID, you'll need a free voter ID.
 
"A lot of folks who've got driver's license say that ain't no big thing. But for folks who don't drive, folks who are poor, folks who don't have cars, photo ID is a big thing. You don't have a driver's license," said State Senator Hank Sanders.
 
The first election requiring a photo ID is the June 3rd primary. Secretary of State Jim Bennett showed how registered votes can get one of the new free ID's at their local registrar's office starting now. You need to bring several things, including a picture ID if you have one, or something with your name and birthdate like a birth certificate. He says the process is very easy and isn't targeting anyone.
 
"We are covering the state in a broad way. This will be done on a totally non-discriminatory basis. Age, political party, race, none of that factors into who will be eligible to receive cards," said Bennett. 
 
You don't have to just have a driver's license or voter ID. You can still show a military ID's, passports, student ID's from public universities, or any other state cards when you go to cast your ballot. 
 
Bennett says about 20 percent of Alabamians don't have a driver's license, but not all of them will need the new ID. That's about 500 thousand people, but he says officials expect to cover everyone who needs one by election season.