NORMAN — The Cleveland County Bar Association will host a free event open to the public in honor of Law Day.
Law Day is nationally recognized May 1, but the event will be held 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Cleveland County Courthouse. This year’s theme is “Democracy and You: Why Every Vote Counts.” The event will feature a presentation on the Evolution of Voting Rights in America by OU Law School professor Richard Tepker.
CCBA President Don Pope said the presentation will look back at voting rights when the country was founded and how they have evolved over the years. Many people may take the right to vote for granted now, but when the country was founded, Pope said, only about 16 to 17 percent of the population could vote.
Women couldn’t vote, black people couldn’t vote, people under the age of 21 couldn’t vote and those who didn’t own property couldn’t vote, he said.
The 1915 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Guinn v. United States, which struck down the grandfather clause exemptions to literacy tests for voters, will also be discussed.
Pope said the literacy tests excluded a lot of black people from voting, but it also excluded a lot of white people, so a grandfather clause was made in an attempt to keep white voters. Then a black man in Payne County who had a college degree passed the literacy test, but voting officials still wouldn’t let him vote.
“They arrested voting officials in Payne County and outlawed the grandfather clause,” Pope said.
He said he thinks the presentation will be very interesting and he hopes it will be well attended. As for Law Day itself, Oklahoma also has ties to how it began.
“Oklahoma kind of has a unique connection to the establishment of Law Day as a whole,” Pope said. “It was initiated by an attorney in Wewoka, Okla.”