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“Written With The Purpose Of Disenfranchising Blacks”: The State Where Racism Is Enshrined In The Constitution

As the presidential race heats up and the American public becomes consumed with the drama that will inevitably engulf the campaign, we should not forget that democracies are intended to be based on voter enfranchisement, and that in many ways America is still lacking in this regard.

There are many techniques that America could employ to increase voter turnout, but one of our most pressing obstacles is the states that have consistently worked toward disenfranchising large swaths of their electorate. In this election cycle, Alabama may be the most egregious offender. You probably think you know all the reasons for this, but here’s one reason I bet you don’t know: It’s all in the state’s constitution.

To put it mildly, Alabama’s constitution is an absurd document. It is the longest still-operative constitution in the world at more than 310,000 words long. It is 40 times longer than the U.S. Constitution and 12 times longer than the average state constitution. Alabama’s constitution is insanely long because it gives the state legislature the power to administer over most counties directly, and as a result about 90 percent of the constitution consists of nearly 900 amendments. Some of the amendments cover mundane issues such as salary increases for county officials or the regulation of bingo games in Macon and Greene counties. The U.S. Constitution, in comparison, has only 27 amendments.

Alabama’s constitution places the majority of the state’s political power in the hands of a small coterie of officials, leaving counties and municipalities forced to essentially ask permission from the legislature regarding almost any form of self-governing. Alabamans for a long time have railed against the inefficiencies and ridiculousness of this constitution. But the racial undertones and the fact that it disproportionately harms and disenfranchises persons of color should not be overlooked. In fact, it should be the focal point when attempting to understand the constitution that governs Alabama.

The document was ratified in 1901 following a wave of racial terror that engulfed the South after the Civil War and during Reconstruction. Essentially, the constitutions of most Southern states follow a similar pattern. Prior to 1861 they all had their own various constitutions, but at the start of the Civil War they created new constitutions pledging their allegiance to the Confederacy. Following the defeat of the Confederacy these constitutions were no longer valid, and starting in 1868 each state had a new constitution overseen by the federal government that outlawed slavery and ensured black Americans were able to vote, to seek and hold elected offices, and to participate in their governments at the local, state, and national level.

To put it mildly, white Southerners did not embrace this societal change, and rather quickly a wave of terror engulfed the South directed toward freed blacks and Northern carpetbaggers—many of whom were also black—who had moved to the region with the intention of ensuring that the new constitutions and federal regulations were followed. The first iteration of the Ku Klux Klan was formed during this period.

However, the terror inflicted upon blacks during this era was not merely physical and mental, but also political. In addition to the Klan and other terrorist groups such as the White League and the Red Shirts, a political movement called the Redeemers began to steadily grow in popularity in the South. The Redeemers were a white political coalition consisting of primarily conservative and pro-business politicians and leaders. Their political ideology focused on seeking “redemption” by ousting or oppressing the coalition of freedmen—freed persons of color, carpetbaggers, and scalawags (Southern whites who supported Reconstruction). The Redeemers wanted to return their America to an era that favored white life and oppressed all others.

The biggest coup of this era for the Redeemers was the controversial Compromise of 1877 that removed federal troops from South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana, decided the 1876 U.S. presidential election, and ended the era of Reconstruction. In the ensuing years, Southern states created constitutions that reversed the progress and enfranchisement of Reconstruction, but without explicitly violating the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution.

Jim Crow laws and segregation became legally mandated during this time, but due to the “separate but equal” doctrine, these policies were not viewed as racially unjust. Additionally, since race could no longer serve as a barrier to vote, wealth, education and more became the new determinants, and poll taxes were instituted in states across the South. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia all created poll taxes in their new constitutions that disenfranchised blacks and poor whites. Poor whites had become the collateral damage in the quest to continue the oppression of black Americans in the South.

However, as time passed most of these states created new constitutions or completely rewrote existing ones so that they would not be trapped and forced to govern based upon the abhorrent and immortal standards of the past. Georgia, for example, ratified its current constitution in 1983.

Yet Alabama remains as one of the states whose constitution (PDF) functions as a continuation of the Redeemers ideology: an ideology that resulted in widespread political corruption as whites worked to sustain white supremacy and remain the governing force in Alabama by any means necessary. During the 1890s, whites in Alabama committed 177 lynchings—more than any other state—and by the end of the decade, Alabama had created a new constitution that placed the state under the control of those who committed and/or endorsed the terror.

During the first election held after the constitution’s 1901 enactment, voter turnout declined by 38 percent as a result of poll taxes, literacy requirements, and other legal voting impediments. In 1900 there were roughly 181,000 registered black voters and by 1903 there were fewer than 5,000. Black voter turnout dropped by a whopping 96 percent, and white turnout also decreased by 19 percent.

In recent years, when Alabama has instituted voter ID laws that disproportionately harm communities of color and have systematically closed DMVs in predominantly black counties, thus preventing African Americans from obtaining voter IDs, no one should be surprised. Alabama has always been a state that has found creative legal was to oppress and disenfranchise black Americans while ensuring that a segment of white elites dominate society.

Alabama’s constitution may not be legally racist or oppressive, but that most certainly is its intent. Preventing Alabamans from voting is its main bedrock principle. And while many Alabamans view their constitution as a shame that blights their society, the oppressive principles and ideology that brought it into existence have unfortunately returned to our national political discourse. Voting restrictions have sprung up across the nation, and government-sponsored racial and religious divisions are again commonplace in our political discourse.

Attempts to forcefully return America to a past that encourages racial division and oppression and places political power within the wealthy elites of society only result in staining the future. Alabama’s constitution and its capacity and consistency of racial oppression and disenfranchising voters is only one example, and sadly there are no signs that it will be repealed anytime soon.

 

By: Barrett Holmes Pitner, The Daily Beast, December 22, 2015

December 25, 2015 Posted by | Alabama Constitution, Alabama State Legislature, Racism, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Parties Of No”: Then And Now, Dire Consequences For The Nation’s Poorest Citizens

In 1874, Republicans suffered one of the greatest electoral reversals in American history, losing 170 seats and their commanding House majority to the Democratic opposition. Although not apparent at first blush, the recent Republican victory has a great deal in common with this Democratic landslide 140 years earlier. And if history is any guide, the upcoming Congressional realignment will again have dire consequences for the nation’s poorest citizens.

Although the conservatives of the post-Civil War era went under the banner of the Democratic Party, their policies and strategies were similar to today’s Republicans. Both exploited ailing economies and unpopular administrations in the White House to advance their programs of obstruction and fiscal retrenchment.

Above all else, what unites 19th-century Democrats and 21st-century Republicans is their dogged opposition to federal spending, especially on social services for the nation’s neediest. Today’s Party of No has attempted to block the Obama administration on a number of these measures — from food stamps and welfare to unemployment benefits and health care — even at the risk of a national credit default.

Yet long before today’s Republicans made obstruction their raison d’etre, Gilded Age Democrats turned “No” into a political rallying cry, and, in the process, rolled back some of the era’s most important social reforms.

One of their first targets was the Freedmen’s Bureau, a federal agency established in 1865 to aid the nation’s recently emancipated slaves. In providing rations, medical care, education and employment opportunities to freed African Americans, the Bureau was one of the great progressive institutions of the era, despite a chronic shortage in funding.

Democrats, however, protested vigorously with arguments that, to this day, remain central to the conservative critique of federal intervention on behalf of blacks. Nineteenth-century Democrats stressed that self-help, not dependence on the federal government, was the only path forward for African Americans, and that such so-called charity would injure the “character” and “prospects” of a newly emancipated class of citizens. They insisted that public spending on a single group was not only unfair, but financially unsustainable as well. One newspaper captured several of these concerns by dubbing the Bureau a “department of pauperism.” In 1872 Congress abruptly shut down the Bureau, and with that, millions of freed slaves lost one of their only allies in the struggle against violent racism in the South.

One hundred and forty years has done relatively little to shift the conservative position on taxation. Reducing the tax burden on the rich is a Republican mainstay, even as income inequality soars to Gilded Age-esque extremes. Meanwhile, Tea Party-affiliated politicians like Ted Cruz promote a flat tax, which would put disproportionately greater strain on lower earners.

Although they lacked the Reaganite vocabulary of trickle-down economics, 19th-century conservatives similarly pushed for lowering taxes on the rich. After the Civil War, Southern conservatives shifted the burden onto the poorest citizens, namely freed slaves. Whereas taxes on landed property were astonishingly low (.1 percent in Mississippi, for example), blacks often had to pay poll or “head” taxes that could amount to a substantial portion of their yearly income. The result was a system in which wealthy landholders could end up paying less overall in taxes than the hired hands who worked their land.

On the issue of voting rights, today’s Republicans have more in common with Gilded Age Democrats than any current political party should. As many have pointed out, the voter ID laws backed by Republican policymakers disproportionately affect poor people, minorities, and college students, key constituents in the Democratic base. Conservative efforts in this regard may not mark the return of Jim Crow, as some have suggested, but they certainly undermine key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Like today’s Republicans, yesterday’s Democrats recognized the electoral gains to be made in keeping certain voters from the polls. Thus they waged a national campaign against black male voting rights, which had been secured in 1870 by the 15th Amendment. In particular, they exploited the Amendment’s vagueness by introducing literacy, property and educational tests to severely limit black suffrage and thereby inaugurate the age of Jim Crow by the turn of the century.

To be clear, Republicans today differ from their conservative predecessors in certain crucial respects. No serious Republican leaders currently advocate the systematic disfranchisement of an entire race, nor would they condone the sort of racial violence that conservatives deployed in post-Civil War America.

Nonetheless, the parallels are disconcerting. Once again a bitter American electorate has empowered a party without an apparent political vision beyond repeals and rollbacks. And once again that party pursues the regressive goal of lowering taxes on the rich while dismantling federal programs for the poor.

When Americans gave up on the possibility of progressive reform in the 1870s, they ushered in an age of rapidly growing racial and economic inequality. We can only hope the repercussions won’t be so serious this time around.

 

By: Kevin Waite, PhD candidate in American History, University of Pennsylvania; The Huffington Post Blog, November 17, 2014

November 19, 2014 Posted by | American History, Democrats, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Voter Rights Lose in Pennsylvania”: To Protect Your Right To Vote, You Must Lose Your Right To Vote

Let’s imagine a world in which Pennsylvania’s voter-ID law did not disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. The law, which requires voters show government-issued identification in order to vote, has created significant burdens for voters without IDs, a population disproportionately made up of poor people and minorities. In our imaginary world, the state would do a stellar job of educating voters, reaching out to African Americans—who disproportionately lack state IDs—and Spanish-language media. They would send postcards as early as possible to tell every voter in the state about the change. A “card of last resort” would be available to any voter who could not easily access the required documents for a standard ID, which include a birth certificate and a Social Security card. Employees at the state’s driver’s license centers would be well-versed in the law and give voters advice about what was needed and what they were entitled to receive for free. Election workers would be well-trained and poll places would have provisional ballots for those who did not have ID on election day. If every single component of that implementation went perfectly, then maybe the law would not have the disastrous impact that almost all voting-rights activists predict it will have.

According to Pennsylvania Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson, the mere possibility of that counterfactual scenario is enough. This morning, the judge denied a request from four voting-rights groups to block the law. The lawsuit will now head to the state supreme court—”as quickly as possible,” says Penda Hair, executive director for the Advancement Project, one of the parties to the suit.

Over the phone, Hair was deflated. “It’s a very sad day for democracy,” she said.

Simpson’s decision centered on a few key legal questions: Whether the law was unconstitutional “on its face”—as opposed to in practice—and what standard should be applied to judge its constitutionality. In evaluating laws, judges apply different standards. “Strict scrutiny” is an elevated standard, which is most typically applied when the law in question targets minorities or involves a fundamental right; to be ruled constitutional, the law must be narrowly tailored, serve a “compelling state interest,” and be the only way the state can achieve the intended effect. In other words, the state has the burden of showing that we really, really need this law. The “rational basis” is much more lenient—all the state has to show is that the law serves some legitimate purpose (i.e., that it’s not totally frivolous). In his lengthy opinion, the judge determined that, based on prior cases, including the U.S. Supreme Court case over Indiana’s voter-ID law, a strict scrutiny test was not “the appropriate measure” for the case. Because of this, the law’s proponents did not need to show that the Pennsylvania law served a “compelling state interest.” In other words, even though the law was ostensibly passed to prevent voter fraud, the fact there is no voter-fraud problem in the state doesn’t matter. Simpson also wrote that the plaintiffs’ case hinged on the many things that would or could go wrong, but that the law was not unconstitutional as written—the plaintiffs would have to wait until after the election to see if it had been harmful.

In a conference call with Hair and the other plaintiffs’ lawyers, the legal team was eager to point out that should the state Supreme Court subject the law to stricter scrutiny, they would stand a much better chance of winning. The lawyers pointed to cases in Missouri and Wisconsin, where courts found that similar voter-ID laws violated their state constitutions, based on a strict-scrutiny test. Simpson had relied more heavily on precedent from a U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled on violations to the federal Constitution—a different argument than the one the plaintiffs were making.

Hair had harsh words for the judge’s decision. The ruling implied “voters have to wait until after the election, after they’re barred from voting, and then you can show that the harm is actually applied to them,” she said. “To protect your right to vote you have to lose your right to vote in one important election. That’s the only way I can read this.”

In the conference call, attorney David Gersch was even more blunt. “The court was wrong about that,” he said, pointing to the judge’s acknowledgement that certainly more than 1 percent of voters would be impacted. In Pennsylvania that means at least 89,000 people may lose a fundamental right.

The state has talked a lot about its plans for voter outreach and making it easier to obtain an ID. But so far, the only thing the state has done is to allow those born in Pennsylvania to retrieve a “certified birth record” by providing their personal information at a driver’s license center. It’s easier than obtaining a birth certificate for sure, but it still requires two trips—one to request the record and another to get an ID. There are other measures in the works: For those lacking documents, an ID “of last resort” is supposed to become available by the end of August, and by the end of September, postcards will go out to every voting household in the state informing people of the new law. Pennsylvania has also hired a PR company to do media outreach.

But many doubt these efforts will be sufficient. The PR company the state hired is controlled by Republicans, which some say will be disinclined to alert poor and nonwhite voters—voters who lean Democratic—about the law. It is also unclear how many people—and where—the law will affect. The state’s data showed more than 750,000 without a state ID, but that data has significant flaws. In testimony, a state official explained that he expected fewer than 10,000 IDs to be issued for voting purposes.

Voting-rights advocates are suspicious of the state’s efforts. The Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition, made up of 140 civic, religious and voting-rights groups, has opted not to educate any voters on the “card of last resort” until it’s actually available, since the state doesn’t always make its deadlines. Meanwhile, several studies have shown that employees at the driver’s license centers are not sufficiently familiar with the law and have misinformed voters about the rules.

Judge Simpson, however, put great faith in the state’s voter-outreach efforts. He was dismissive of the plaintiff’s expert witness, a political scientist who showed through survey research that a third of voters were unaware of the law and as much as 12.6 percent of the state’s registered voters may lack the necessary ID. “I am not convinced any qualified elector need be disenfranchised by Act 18,” Simpson wrote, pointing to absentee voting and provisional ballot options for those struggling meet the requirements.

Oddly, however, the judge did acknowledge that the law would hurt voter access. He gave the plaintiffs credit for establishing that the law would prevent some legitimate voters from casting ballots and that some would unfairly be charged for their IDs. He even addressed statements from Mike Turzai, the Republican House Majority Leader who said in an audience that voter ID would ensure a Romney victory, calling the statements “disturbing, tendentious” and “boastful.” But he chose to believe Turzai was alone in his cynical and partisan views, and decided granting the injunction would do more to hurt than help the problems.

To Hair, Simpson’s opinion amounts to a punt to the state Supreme Court. “I interpret it as the lower court saying, ‘If I make a ruling one way or another and then the Supreme Court changes that ruling on appeal, which is going to be worse?” she said. (As I’ve written, this is a concern many activists have had about the ruling.) Hair is already focusing on the Supreme Court, where she believes the plaintiffs can prove that with so many impacted, the law creates an undue burden.

“There won’t be a question that close to a million people will be affected by this law,” she says. “You don’t need to show absolutely without any doubt that you will be barred from voting. We showed massive burdens that these voters have to overcome.”

“We believe that just like the poll tax wasn’t an absolute barrier—you could pay the tax and vote—overcoming these burdens should not be a requirement.”

 

By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, August 15, 2012

August 16, 2012 Posted by | Voting Rights | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Southern Republicans Aim To Make White Democrats Extinct

State Rep. Stacey Abrams serves as the Georgia House Minority Leader.

Across the state, legislative maps are drawn to split voters along artificial lines to isolate them by race. Legislators see their districts disappear, themselves the target of racial gerrymandering. Citizens rise up in protest and demand the right to elect the candidate of their choice, but the ruling party ignores them. Racial groups are identified and segregated; their leadership eliminated. It is the way of the South. Only this isn’t 1964, the year before the signing of the Voting Rights Act. This is Georgia in 2011.

But this time, the legislators at risk are white men and women who have had the temerity to represent majority African-American districts, and Latino legislators who spoke up for their growing Hispanic population. In crossover districts, where whites and blacks have worked together for decades to build multi-racial voting coalitions, the new district maps devised by the Republican majority have slashed through those ties with speed and precision.  If the maps proposed by the GOP in Georgia stand, nearly half of the white Democratic state representatives could be removed from office in one election cycle. Call it the “race card”—in reverse.

Reapportionment is a dangerous business. Once every 10 years, the naked ambition of political parties wars with the dwindling hope of voters that this time their voices will be heard. In the South, the voting lines traditionally aimed for specific targets—racial discrimination that purged minorities, diminishing their numbers and political power. If a legislator had the poor fortune to be of the wrong race, that district would disappear for a decade or more.  The voters who relied on you would find themselves isolated and polarized, the victims of racial gerrymandering.

For most of the nation, the battle lines are drawn by partisan leaders who search for the sinuous lines that will connect like-minded voters to one another and disadvantage those who have shown a preference for the other side. That, as they say, is Politics 101.

But for a handful of states, the stakes are higher. Below the Mason-Dixon Line and scattered across the country, a legacy of poll taxes and literacy tests required a special remedy—Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act has a simple goal—integrate the voting of minorities into the fabric of our democracy. For any state held to its obligations, no changes can be made to election laws without pre-clearance by the Justice Department. In the last decade, the minority population across the South has increased, and by any measure, the Voting Rights Act has been the engine of racial progress.

In Georgia, the gains made under the Act are undeniable. Districts populated predominately by African-Americans have routinely elected white legislators to speak for them. In enclaves across the state, white voters have punched their ballots to elect African-American and Latino representatives. Crossover districts, where blacks and whites and Latinos co-mingle, have grown in prominence–combining with majority-minority districts to comprise nearly 35 percent of the House of Representatives.

In 2011, Georgia should stand as a model for the South and a beacon for those who believe in the rights of voters. However, based on the maps passed last week by the Republican majority, we are in danger of returning to 1964.

Redistricting is fundamentally about voters, and in Georgia, minority voters comprise fully 42 percent of the population. More importantly, these populations have aligned themselves with majority white constituents to demonstrate political power. Under the proposal, Republicans will pair 20 percent of Democrats and 7 percent of Republicans in the state House and eliminate the sole remaining white Democrat in Congress from the Deep South. The House pairings pit black Democrats against white Democrats in four contests, white against white in another and eliminate multi-racial coalition voting across the state. When the dust settles, between pairings and the creation of GOP-leaning districts, Republicans stand to knock off 10 white Democrats—half the total number. They will pick up seven new seats, for a total of 123 Republican seats, 56 Democratic seats and one Independent. This will give Republicans a constitutional majority in the state of Georgia; in other words, they will be able to pass any piece of legislation without opposition.

Let’s be clear. It is absolutely the prerogative of the majority party to maximize its political gains. No one questions the right of the GOP to draw as many districts as it can legally muster. The issue is not whether the GOP can increase its hold, but how.

The GOP’s newly drawn voting lines in the state of Georgia reveals a pernicious new cynicism in our politics—the use of the Voting Rights Act as a weapon to destroy racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. It is no consolation if individual black legislators benefit in the GOP’s new scheme. The Voting Rights Act was never intended to protect a particular minority. Indeed, the highest goals of the Act, one of modern America’s most progressive pieces of legislation, was to encourage multi-racial cooperation and understanding. Precisely, what we in Georgia have begun to achieve. More alarmingly, this new strategy targeting white legislators is not limited to our state. If effective here, the cradle of the civil rights movement, the strategy is expected to be implemented in mid-term redistricting across the South. Republican lawmakers in Alabama, Louisiana, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia are watching closely.

Today, we all decry a national partisanship that seems unhealthy and corrosive. But there is nothing wrong with partisanship, when it is a battle of ideas. The Voting Rights Act is intended to ensure that differing ideas be heard, that no single voice drown out the rest. Sadly, that is not what we see rising in the South. The Voting Rights Act is in danger of not protecting the promise of a new day, but becoming a new tool in the politics of destruction.

By: Stacey Abrams, Georgia House Minority Leader, Published in U. S. News and World Report, September 19, 2011

September 20, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Justice Department, Lawmakers, Politics, Racism, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Voters, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The GOP Assault On Voting Rights: A Poll Tax By Another Name

AS we celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, we reflect on the life and legacy of this great man. But recent legislation on voting reminds us that there is still work to do. Since January, a majority of state legislatures have passed or considered election-law changes that, taken together, constitute the most concerted effort to restrict the right to vote since before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Growing up as the son of an Alabama sharecropper, I experienced Jim Crow firsthand. It was enforced by the slander of “separate but equal,” willful blindness to acts of racially motivated violence and the threat of economic retaliation. The pernicious effect of those strategies was to institutionalize second-class citizenship and restrict political participation to the majority alone.

We have come a long way since the 1960s. When the Voting Rights Act was passed, there were only 300 elected African-American officials in the United States; today there are more than 9,000, including 43 members of Congress. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act — also known as the Motor Voter Act — made it easier to register to vote, while the 2002 Help America Vote Act responded to the irregularities of the 2000 presidential race with improved election standards.

Despite decades of progress, this year’s Republican-backed wave of voting restrictions has demonstrated that the fundamental right to vote is still subject to partisan manipulation. The most common new requirement, that citizens obtain and display unexpired government-issued photo identification before entering the voting booth, was advanced in 35 states and passed by Republican legislatures in Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri and nine other states — despite the fact that as many as 25 percent of African-Americans lack acceptable identification.

Having fought for voting rights as a student, I am especially troubled that these laws disproportionately affect young voters. Students at state universities in Wisconsin cannot vote using their current IDs (because the new law requires the cards to have signatures, which those do not). South Carolina prohibits the use of student IDs altogether. Texas also rejects student IDs, but allows voting by those who have a license to carry a concealed handgun. These schemes are clearly crafted to affect not just how we vote, but who votes.

Conservative proponents have argued for photo ID mandates by claiming that widespread voter impersonation exists in America, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. While defending its photo ID law before the Supreme Court, Indiana was unable to cite a single instance of actual voter impersonation at any point in its history. Likewise, in Kansas, there were far more reports of U.F.O. sightings than allegations of voter fraud in the past decade. These theories of systematic fraud are really unfounded fears being exploited to threaten the franchise.

In Georgia, Florida, Ohio and other states, legislatures have significantly reduced opportunities to cast ballots before Election Day — an option that was disproportionately used by African-American voters in 2008. In this case the justification is often fiscal: Republicans in North Carolina attempted to eliminate early voting, claiming it would save money. Fortunately, the effort failed after the State Election Board demonstrated that cuts to early voting would actually be more expensive because new election precincts and additional voting machines would be required to handle the surge of voters on Election Day.

Voters in other states weren’t so lucky. Florida has cut its early voting period by half, from 96 mandated hours over 14 days to a minimum of 48 hours over just eight days, and has severely restricted voter registration drives, prompting the venerable League of Women Voters to cease registering voters in the state altogether. Again, this affects very specific types of voters: according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, African-Americans and Latinos were more than twice as likely as white voters to register through a voter registration drive.

These restrictions purportedly apply to all citizens equally. In reality, we know that they will disproportionately burden African Americans and other racial minorities, yet again. They are poll taxes by another name.

The King Memorial reminds us that out of a mountain of despair we may hew a stone of hope. Forty-eight years after the March on Washington, we must continue our work with hope that all citizens will have an unfettered right to vote. Second-class citizenship is not citizenship at all.

We’ve come some distance and have made great progress, but Dr. King’s dream has not been realized in full. New restraints on the right to vote do not merely slow us down. They turn us backward, setting us in the wrong direction on a course where we have already traveled too far and sacrificed too much.

 

By: Rep John Lewis, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, August 27, 2011

August 29, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Education, Elections, Equal Rights, Freedom, GOP, Government, Governors, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Liberty, Politics, Public, Racism, Republicans, Right Wing, Seniors, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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