You know that phrase “This ain’t yo mama’s civil rights movement,” coined around 2014, during the time of the Ferguson protests?
Turns out, it might be a little inaccurate.
The civil rights movements of the 50’s and 60’s were focused on equal rights for minorities, namely the right to vote. Since the abolition of slavery, legal voter suppression tactics were commonplace in the form of poll taxes, literacy tests, and plain ol’ physical intimidation, often times leading to death.
The Civil Rights Act of 1965 put a stop to most of them, but do you think a white man with a plan to oppress minorities will be denied?
Well, you have another thing coming.
It took a century for minorities to gain the right to vote, free of charge, yet in just half that time, the Republican Party has figured out cheat codes to work around the 15th Amendment.
Since 2008, more than 30 of our 50 states have introduced laws that support voter suppression, and since 2011, 22 states have passed the stricter measures. I’ll give you a hint as to why: it rhymes with “Yo Mama became Resident of the United States.”
Looks like we are right back to the same issues our parents (and grandparents) faced during the civil rights movement.
Just this past weekend, a student has his phone physically ripped away from him by Georgia Senator David Purdue, when he asked Purdue about his support of a candidate who is currently practicing voter suppression. The Senator was at a Georgia Tech game stumping for Secretary of State (and chief election official) Brian Kemp, a Republican currently running for Governor against Stacey Abrams, a Black woman and Democrat.
Kemp has been accused of holding up 53,000 new voter registration applications, mostly of Black and women voters. The applicants are marked “pending” by Kemp’s office because of Georgia’s “exact match” law, newly passed last year. An “exact match” approval criteria can eliminate voter registrations if there is a missing hyphen in a last name, a discrepancy between a maiden name and a married name, or a misspelling in government records.
As a person whose name is misspelled CONSTANTLY, I completely understand the angst and trepidation a law like this creates. Nobody has a problem spelling “Becky” or “Brett”, but as soon as LaTasha or Jamon turn in their registrations, all kinds of problems occur.
White people can spell Tchaikovsky by heart but can’t type Aaliyah without stroking out. Hell, my first name only has three letters of the alphabet in it and people STILL find a way to add more.
The insidiousness of this law is that it disproportionately affects minorities—in this case, those more apt to vote for Abrams. The race in Georgia is said to be a toss up, and 53,000 votes could make or break a candidate.
Even Black Republicans have called foul. Most recently Republican strategist and former Trump cabinet aide Shermichael Singleton, who stated “Time and time again, I think we are seeing — unfortunately — with my party is that because they cannot compete with people of color, they’re finding other areas, to essentially displace those individuals from being able to participate in our — honestly our biggest part of being an American, the ability to vote, and I think that is extremely unfortunate.”
With a name like Shermichael, I really hope his voter registration paperwork is in impeccable order.
It’s not just a problem in Georgia.
Not to be outdone in
racism new voter legislation, North Carolina enacted a law that has effectively shut down 20 percent of their early voting locations. In an effort to throw the rock and hide their hand, they claim the *hours* available for early voting won’t be reduced, just a small change in *days* available, eliminating the Saturday before the election. The hours usually allocated to that Saturday have now been dispersed throughout the week, making 12 hour days for polling volunteers. Without the manpower to work these new hours, polling places have been forced to close. Minority voters are said to be the main beneficiaries of early voting, due to work and transportation hindrances on weekdays. What day do they mostly show up? You guessed it: the last Saturday before the election. In 2016, 200,000 people voted on that day alone. By eliminating this day, minority votes are exponentially annihilated.
This type of underhanded move was made legal by the 2013 SCOTUS decision of Shelby County v Holder. This decision declared that the formulas previously used to determine if a state needed federal preclearance to change their voting rules were outdated. Until a new formula is devised, states can pretty much change guidelines all willy nilly and get away with this type of disenfranchisement without federal reprimand.
The south isn’t the only place minorities are being disenfranchised; this week, North Dakota’s controversial ID laws were confusingly upheld by the Supreme Court. The law requires residents to now show identification with a current *street* address and not their tribal government issued ID cards which only show a PO Box, as they have always done in the past (and even in the primaries, which occurred weeks ago). Just one problem with that whole street address thing: the Native American North Dakotans who live on reservations, numbering in the tens of thousands, do not have street addresses. I bet you’re wondering who Native Americans have a tendency to vote for. Hint: it ain’t Republicans.
Voter fraud is practically non-existent in Georgia, North Carolina, North Dakota and the ENTIRE country, so these measures obviously aren’t about maintaining the integrity of the process. On the contrary, these republican led initiatives are made for one thing and one thing only: to stop the people who traditionally vote against their party from doing so. For anybody out there who still thinks voting is futile, I ask you this: if it didn’t matter, why are these old white men going through so much trouble to stop you from doing it?