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Justice Department Moves on Negro Voting Rights

Aug. 28, 1962 - The Justice Department started a broad legal effort today to open the voting rolls in Mississippi to Negroes. A suit filed in Jackson, Miss., asked the Federal courts to strike down two sections of the Mississippi Constitution and six state laws. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (pictured celebrating the 52nd anniversary of the Boy Scouts), announcing the suit in Washington, said that all the provisions were used to keep Negroes from voting. Mississippi’s two Senators, James O. Eastland and John Stennis, both Democrats, assailed Attorney General Kennedy and the lawsuit. “It is a polemic designed purely and simply as a political document to further partisan politics,” Senator Eastland said of the Justice Department complaint. The six challenged statutes were passed by the Mississippi legislature last spring. The Justice Department termed them a package designed to “deter, hinder, prevent, delay, and harass” Negroes in their efforts to register. The statues laid down these provisions:

1. The names of all applicants to vote must be published in the local newspaper before they are registered.

2. Any registered voter may challenge an applicant. The applicant must then go into a public hearing and a long legal proceeding, the costs of which he must pay if he loses.

3. If the applicant is turned down, the registrar may not tell him the reason why he failed.

4. The applicant must fill out all forms perfectly and without any help from the registrar.


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