Hundreds Gather for Progressive National Baptist Convention

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act, a key piece of civil rights legislation that was gutted by a Supreme Court decision in 2013.

Hundreds of clergy from around the country gathered in Dallas this week for the Progressive National Baptist Convention. They say the fight for voting equality and fairness at the polls continues to this day.

“We want the Congress to know, and the world to know, that everyone deserves the right to vote,” said convention attendee Kip Banks.

Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson was a featured speaker Thursday at the convention. She spoke of her pride in seeing the Voting Rights Act signed, which determined that many southern states needed federal approval before they could change voting laws due to patterns of discrimination.

Two years ago, a Supreme Court decision struck down key provisions in the law. Many Congressional democrats like Johnson have been fighting ever since to put them back in.

“There’s momentum with the Democrats, it’s a struggle with Republicans,” Johnson said. “We have not been able to get it out of committee. It’s really a puzzle as to why.”

Pastors at this conference said it's difficult for minority and poor citizens to get to polling locations, and it's a struggle to add polling places on college campuses and in poor urban areas.

“Some people think there's not a problem," Johnson said. "But if you're African-American, you know that there is a problem. And the problem should be corrected. And we will not stop until it is."

“The 2016 election is around the corner, tonight is the first Republican debate," Banks said. "For us, there's no reason to turn the clock back."

Federal appeals court Wednesday struck down Texas' voter ID law, saying it was discriminatory. Many of the convention-goers say that's a perfect example of why the fight for equal voting rights continues to this day.

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