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This is a most important conference. We have met here today
to consider whether in fact every American has, and will continue
to have, free and open access to the ballot and whether each vote
carries a full impact, unfettered by conditions which might make
it an exercise in futility. If the Voting Rights Act of 1965
required a Selma to produce this national guarantee, can in fact
we say that ten years of experience under the Act has wiped away
centuries of discrimination and brought the conscience of citizens
and public officials in every state to accept these rights without
restraint? In my judgment no evidence supports such a conclusion.

Yet history tells us that the national commitment to principles
of justice and equality ebbs and flows, and current events in this
nation confirm history's experience. It would be no favor to the
memory of Martin Luther King and all those who gave so much to
assure these rights if we did not regard extension of the Act as
of critical importance.

The Southern Regional Council has a long commitment to the
support of voting rights. The Council first established the Voter
Education Project in 1962, and we look on the record of Wiley Branton, Vernon Jordan and John Lewis with great price. And
although VEP is now a sister organization, the Council itself
maintains a continuing concern for voting rights. This morning we
are releasing a resolution adopted by our full membership at our
Annual Meeting last November and calling for an extension of that
legislation.

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BettyJoyce Nash

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