MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA – In observance of Constitution Day this year, the West Virginia University College of Law is hosting an event focusing on the 50-year-old Voting Rights Act.
WVU law professor Atiba Ellis and Capital University law professor Brad Smith will discuss the act’s past successes and future challenges on Thursday, September 17, at 12:00 p.m. in the Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom.
The event, which is part of WVU’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the arts and humanities, will also include an audience Q&A and a reception. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend.
Signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, the Voting Rights Act outlawed discriminatory voting practices, including literacy tests. It serves to enforce the right to vote as guaranteed by the 15th Amendment (1870) to the United States Constitution.
Among its provisions, the Voting Rights Act targeted states where Congress saw racial discrimination as a potential threat to voters rights. In 2013, the United States Supreme Court struck down the section of the act that required states to seek federal approval before changing their election laws, such as voter identification requirements.
Ellis is an expert on voting rights law and how varying interpretations of the right to vote exclude certain voters. Most recently, he has conducted research about the barriers posed by voter ID laws, voting rights theory and how ideology affects the scope of the right to vote. He has been a member of the WVU College of Law faculty since 2009.
Smith is a past chairman and commissioner of the Federal Election Commission (2000-2005). A professor at Capitol University School of Law since 1994, Smith is the founder of the Center for Competitive Politics. From 2013-15, he was the Judge John T. Copenhaver Visiting Endowed Chair of Law at West Virginia University.
Former West Virginia senator Robert Byrd (1917-2010) sponsored the legislation that established Constitution Day in 2004. The law requires that all publicly funded educational institutions provide special programming on or near that day every year. The College of Law hosts the annual event that fulfills that responsibility for WVU.