Monday, October 29, 2018

Voting while Black

The history of voter disenfranchisement demonstrates the government’s failure to uphold and exercise federal power. Congress never reduced Southern states' congressional representation in proportion to its disenfranchisement and the Supreme Court actively undermined its powers to protect voting rights by refusing to acknowledge discrimination even when it was obvious.


During Reconstruction, former slaves were granted the right to vote by an Act of Congress. The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1870, stipulates:

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
In Mississippi, African Americans registered and flooded the polls, electing Blacks to many local offices and over a dozen Black men to the United States Congress, in what was called the Black and Tan Revolution. A likely outcome, since former slaves far outnumbered the white population.

In response, Whites promoted the idea that Blacks had ascended to office only through means of fraud and corruption and a new state constitution was written stating that:

“Negroes were denied the right to vote because as long as they had voted, corruption and fraud had characterized government in the state of Mississippi....To restore "purity" to the governance of the state of Mississippi, Blacks must no longer be allowed to vote."

The response of many whites to the election of the first Black man to the presidency, was not unlike that of whites in Reconstruction Mississippi. Just as they had accused Blacks of corrupting the vote in 1875, after the election of Barack Obama, the exact same allegations ensued.

Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections. Still, the indictment of ACORN (The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Nowset the stage for the bogus claims of voter fraud. 

The idea was to destroy a Democratic support system and delegitimize the election of the first Black president. He’d stolen the White House. Show us your papers, Barack. As Rep. Sue Burmeister of Georgia told the Justice Department, a voter’s ID bill would keep more African Americans from voting, which was fine with her since 

“if there are fewer Black voters because of this bill, it will only be because there is less                  opportunity for fraud.”
The Ohio GOP even launched an ad claiming hundreds of thousands of new voter registrations are questionable and asking, “Could Ohio’s election be stolen?”

While all the furor surrounded ACORN, little press was devoted to GOP voter registration contractors, Mark Anthony Jacoby, of Young Political Majors and Nathan Sproul, former head of the Arizona Republican Party. Both were embroiled in concerted efforts to disenfranchise real voters, by switching registrations from Democratic to Republican or simply destroying Democratic registrations altogether in California, Arizona, Oregon, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts and West Virginia.

Former Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT), during a hearing on voter fraud, admitted that

“the difference between ACORN and Sproul is that ACORN doesn’t throw away or   change registration documents after they have been filled out.”


After Blacks gained political office in 1875, Whites acted swiftly to reverse the election results, organizing white paramilitary groups such as the Red Shirts and White League. In order to repress the civil rights and voting by Blacks and poor whites, the Red Shirts used violence, including whippings, lynchings, murders, and intimidation at the polls. 

They frequently provoked riots at rallies, shooting down hundreds of Blacks in the ensuing conflicts. In Vicksburg, the Black sheriff was shot in the head by his white deputy and armed gangs murdered up to 300 Blacks in the city's vicinity. Black people who were considered uppity were beat or even worse, lynched. Scores of Black schools and churches went up in flames. The Governor was impeached and the Black States Attorney run out of town.

Armed patrols prevented Blacks from registering and voting, setting the precedent for The Mississippi Plan. The Supreme Court all but overturned the Civil Rights Act, judging in essence that groups like the Red Shirts and White League were private entities, not unlike they determined that corporations are people.


The Mississippi Plan revisited

Once whites regained control, and eliminated Blacks from office, a Second Mississippi Plan in 1890 did not resort to violence in order to eliminate the Black vote, but did so by law, though lynchings peaked through 1894. The new restrictions did not deprive the voter of the right to vote but placed restrictions at the point of registration. Between 1890 and 1910, states passed new constitutions or amendments that effectively disenfranchised most Blacks and tens of thousands of poor whites.

The Plan was later adopted by other states: South Carolina (1895), Louisiana (1898), North Carolina (1900), Alabama (1901), Virginia (1901), Georgia (1908), and Oklahoma (1910). Southern states later used "White primaries" and other devices to exclude Black voters.

As a result of such measures, voter turnout dropped drastically. In Alabama, tens of thousands of poor whites were disenfranchised. In Louisiana, Black voters were reduced to 5,320 on the rolls, even though they comprised the majority of the state's population. By 1910, only 730 Blacks were registered. In 27 of the Louisiana’s 60 parishes, not a single Black voter was registered, while in North Carolina Black voters were completely eliminated from voter rolls.


Many believed Obama’s election, was proof that egalitarianism had triumphed in the United States. His victory evidenced we have put to rest the racism that has been a barrier for people of color.

In a Supreme Court majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts held that the Voting Rights Act’s “special provisions” for monitoring the electoral laws of states with histories of racial discrimination against Black voters, were a relic of the nineteen-sixties.  He implied that the election of a Black President served as evidence that the Voting Rights Act, which was passed had served its purpose. While Justice Antonin Scalia referring to the act as “the perpetuation of a racial entitlement.” 

Someone wisely interpreted this thinking as being akin to citing declining numbers of drunk drivers as evidence that laws criminalizing the behavior had served their purpose and could now be relaxed.

In the spirit of the Mississippi Plan, an hour after President Obama’s inauguration, Republican lawmakers were planning ways to submarine his presidency, put the brakes on his legislative platform and win back political power. Republican Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) is quoted as saying,

"We've gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign."

The Tea Party, a modern day version of the White Shirts, staged its first rally February 27, 2009. President Obama had been in office a mere 38 days...already labeled a Socialist with calls for his impeachment. Hate groups grew by 244% and threats on the life of the president rose by as much as 400 percent.

Republicans incorporate everything from purging and redistricting schemes to the elimination of polling places and early voting. Alaska submitted for federal preclearance, a plan that would have required some Native Alaskan voters to travel by air or boat to cast a ballot. While in Nevada, in order to register to vote or cast a ballot in-person, the Native American Paiutes had to travel 100 miles round-trip to the closest voting location.

Rush Limbaugh declared,

"The dirty little secret ... is that every Republican in this country wants Obama to fail, but none of them have the guts to say so; I am willing to say it.”
Over a hundred activists participated in a Congressional conference call, organized to coincide with Tea Party protests about the pending healthcare legislation. It was on this call, Tea Party Leader, Senator Jim DeMint said,
“If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”
While, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared,
“Our top priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.”

After Republicans regained control of several legislative bodies, they instituted the same changes as the racist white southerners of 1890. They introduced new legislation, changed voter’s registration requirements, employed gerrymandering, closed polling places and purged voter’s from the registration rolls; all practices that fall hardest on people who have traditionally faced barriers at the polls.

According to a Republican Party operative’s email,

“I believe the voter ID issue should be used at all levels. You are not going to find a better wedge issue.”
But voter fraud isn’t the problem, election fraud is. If Republicans were really concerned about the sanctity of the vote and elections, they would care about the following:

Paper Ballot Op-Scan Systems in FL, WI, NY, OH Confirmed to Overheat, Mistally 70% of Votes

The private company which manufactures, sells, services and programs the voting systems issued a warning: their systems may overheat, then may miscount and/or incorrectly discard anywhere from 30% to 70% of votes scanned by the machines.

Board of Elections does nothing as hundreds of Bronx votes go missing

State governments across the country enacted an array of new laws making it harder to register or to vote. These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, low-income voters, and voters with disabilities, sought to tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election.

According to a Brennan Center analysis of the 19 laws and two executive actions that passed in 14 states:

The new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots.

The states that have cut back on voting rights will provide 63 percent or 171 electoral votes of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

Of the 12 likely battleground states, five have already cut back on voting rights and passed additional restrictive legislation.

Study Predicts Voting Laws Will Change Political Landscape (Washington Post 10/3/11) 

2012 election: Disenfranchised voters, hacked machines? ( 10/3/11)

Draconian laws could disenfranchise 5 million voters (The Bellingham Herald 10/3/11)

The Republican "Voter Fraud" Fraud (The Guardian 10/31/11)

5 Reasons Why You Should Care About New Restrictive Voting Laws (Colorlines 11/8/11)


Voters head to the polls for the first time since our presidential election was decided by a margin of just 80,000 votes across three states. Maps drawn after the 2010 tea-party wave to favor Republicans, mean Democrats need to win the national popular vote in 2018 by the biggest margin in a midterm since 1982.

Americans in key states will vote again under extremely gerrymandered maps in Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas

Extreme Gerrymandering & The 2018 Midterm by The Brennan Center for Justice 

Then there’s the practice of purging.

Four million more people were purged from the rolls between the federal elections of 2014 and 2016 than between 2006 and 2008. Much of that increase came from states that were previously required under the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to get election changes cleared in advance.

Florida - Between December 2016 and September 2018, Florida has purged more than 7 percent of its voters.

Georgia - Over the past two years, the state has purged 10.6 percent of voters.

North Carolina - Between September of 2016 and May of 2018, the state purged 11.7 percent of its voter rolls.

North Dakota - The law requires voters to have an identification that shows a residential address. Much of the state’s Native American population and other rural voters don’t have fixed street addresses; they use PO boxes instead.

Kansas’s controversial voter ID law required voters to provide proof they were US citizens in order to register to vote. It was struck down by a federal judge.

New York City Board of Elections illegally purged about 200,000 voters off the city’s rolls in 2014 and 2015.

Virginia: from 2012 to 2016, the state has removed slightly more than 379,000 names from the rolls than it did from 2008 to 2012. Researchers from Brennan argue that some of those people are citizens who are eligible to vote, and were removed illegally.

Disenfranchising Felons

Many states have also passed legislation that forbids voting by individuals who have a felony on record. Yet, even when they are behind bars, felons count as part of the population to determine congressional representation and federal funding, even though upon release they are barred from all the advantages the funding provides.

These laws trace to the mid-1800s, when they were crafted to bar Blacks with even minor criminal records from polls. Such a practice might not seen unjust if felons were exempted from paying taxes, excluded from the census or forbidden to seek office. But in fact, a felon can seek election as President…so in essence a felon can write and vote for the laws that govern the country, but he cannot cast a vote in an election.

In 2004, Marty Connors, while Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, can be credited with speaking the truth to The Washington Post when he stated,

"As frank as I can be, we're opposed to restoring voting rights because felons don't tend to vote Republican."
Florida was embroiled in a controversy surrounding Gov. Rick Scott's (R) voter purge program, which disproportionately affected voters of color.

During a deposition, former Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer said “…the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping Blacks from voting."

From Brad Blog: Former FL GOP Chair Testifies That Party Discussed How to 'Keep Blacks From Voting' in 2009

The more things change…..

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