MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - Another battle in Washington may change the future of the way Middle Georgia and the Peach State conduct their elections--and it all has to do with race.
Back in the 60's, race tension was everywhere, especially in Georgia and other southern states. That's why the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was so important then, requiring those states, including Alaska and a few states up north, to get federal permission before changing election laws--so minorities didn't get shafted.
Fast-forward to 2013.
"I don't think we've made enough progress," says Macon City Councilwoman Elaine Lucas. "We see every year thousands of reports of voter intimidation especially by the Republicans." Lucas says getting rid of that part of the Voting Rights Act would be "dangerous" and wrong--but Republican congressman Allen Peake believes it's time to move on.
"It's a whole different day than it was in 1965," Peake told 41NBC, "and to single out southern states, where at that point in time, clearly there was some discrimination in the voting issues, I don't think you see that same type of issue at all today."
So, 41NBC's Andrew Reeser asked Maconites if they think their city and state have gotten past 60's era racism. Answers varied, but all of them agreed there is room for improvement.
"We've got a long ways to go--who would ever think that we would have a black President, but there's still prejudice in Macon," says Macon resident Jerome.
"I think we've got good progressive leaders," said another man.
"Racial profiling people--you can't walk down the street being black without them jumping out on you--'You got your ID on you?'" Michael Jenkins, a Macon resident, told 41NBC.
Peake says some politicians use the racial tension of long ago to inflame the public today for political reasons.
"There are those who choose to continue to use the charge of racism to their own personal benefit," Peake said, not naming specific people.
Earlier this week, 41NBC posed the question "US Supreme Court hearing arguments about changing Voting Rights Act of 1965...saying key southern states have moved on from racial discrimination. What do you think? Have we moved on in Middle Georgia?"
One viewer responded : "If Elaine Lucas and probably C. Jack would let us. I think they create some of the racial disharmony in the city." 41NBC asked Lucas what she would say to that viewer--she said "Not a thing. Ignorance is widespread."
Another viewer wrote "Current day racism is self-perpetuated on both sides. Black, white, whatever. Just quit being an ass and treat all humans like humans. end of story."
Unfortunately Macon and Bibb County do have a dark history of racism, but people we spoke with say pulling the race card for political purposes is not for 2013.
The implications of doing away with the Voting Rights Act are far-reaching...but the question remains: have we come far enough to act on our own? Lucas reiterated her opposition to changing the law. "I think it's a dangerous thing when you have the Supreme Court looking at dismantling something as important as Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act," she said.