Nov. 5, 2020
Any discussion of fair elections must include an understanding of Voting Rights. All citizens of the US 18 and over have been granted the right to vote, except some felons and some who are mentally incapacitated. Citizens in US territories cannot vote for president in the general election. The history of voter suppression began in the south, as the white elite tried to stack the deck in their favor and make sure it stayed that way.
- The 15th amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1870, gave black men the right to vote.
- For the next 95 years, white men passed a series of “Jim Crow” laws, which basically disenfranchised black men.
- In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. It outlawed discriminatory voting practices. Lyndon B. Johnson, a Southerner, said “we cannot have government for all the people until we first make certain it is government of and by all the people.” The Voting Rights Act of 1965 abolished all remaining deterrents to voting for black men and authorized Federal supervision of voter registration where necessary. It was extended and strengthened 3 times before 1982. Who was alive at that time?
- In 2013, key provisions of the Voting Rights Act were gutted by the Supreme Court , including one that prohibited states known for discriminatory practices from changing their election laws without an okay from the federal government.
- Voter suppression took on a life of its own, purging eligible voters from the rolls, cutting back early and absentee voting, closing polling places, and using strict voter ID requirements – disenfranchising voters of color at every turn.
- Officials purged nearly 4 million more names between 2014 and 2016 than between 2006 and 2008 — a 33 percent increase. Officials in states that used to be under federal oversight purged voters from the rolls at a rate 40 percent higher than those in states with no history of voter suppression.
- Election officials in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia have all conducted illegal voter roll purges. In Virginia in 2013, nearly 39,000 voters were removed from the rolls when state officials relied on a faulty database.
- Since the Voting Rights Act was gutted in 2013, 1,688 polling places have been shuttered in those states. Texas officials closed 750 polling places. Arizona and Georgia were almost as bad. Those closures were mostly in communities of color.
- In Texas, officials in the 50 counties that gained the most Black and Latinx residents between 2012 and 2018 closed 542 polling sites, compared to just 34 closures in the 50 counties that gained the fewest Black and Latinx residents. In Georgia’s 2020 primary, 80 polling places were closed in Atlanta, home to Georgia’s largest Black population — forcing 16,000 residents to use a single polling place.
- Texas Republicans put a voter ID law into effect almost immediately following the decision — a law that they had been prevented from passing in 2011 when the Voting Rights Act was still intact. That law has been struck down five times since it went into effect, one that intentionally discriminates against Black and Latinx voters.
- In Georgia, the state’s restrictive “exact match” ID law — requiring a voter’s ID to exactly match the name on their registration, down to any dots or dashes — allowed state officials to throw out 53,000 majority-Black voter registrations less than a month before the state’s tight 2018 gubernatorial race with Stacey Abrams, who would have been the country’s first Black woman governor.
- In North Carolina, a court found that the state’s voter ID law “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision,” and struck the law down the entire law.
- I’m not telling you all this to make you discouraged. Here’s why I’m telling you.
- Raise your hand if you were born after 2000. I’m speaking now to you. I am looking for the next generation of voters. Of activists Of guardians of democracy. Of people who care enough about the future of NC, the future of our country, and the future of our planet, to run for office. The future is decided by those who show up, by those who are at the table. Be one of those people. Start small, run for Board of Education, Board of Elections, town councils, commissioners. That is where you can influence local decisions and get experience. Learn how government works so that you can be a player. Don’t be afraid. If you don’t do it, others will make decisions for you, and they won’t always be in your favor. They will be decisions made by politicians who are paid off with dark money to favor corporations instead of we the people. If you think your vote doesn’t matter, look back at the last 4 years. We need you to step up to the plate.