Rampant Voter Suppression
Vote. Vote. Vote blare the internet and commercials: former president Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, former attorney general Eric Holder, entertainers, athletes, ministers tell us to vote; countless e-mails, many from out-of-state, unknown donation-soliciting candidates, encourage us to vote. I need no reminder; I know the value and importance of voting. I have believed in voting since my early teens. No one has to tell or remind me to vote.
What I wish is that more persons were told to check whether they are registered to vote. More importantly, I wish there were more persons telling legislatures to eliminate voter suppression! How different might the 2016 election have been had more than 26% of eligible voters used their constitutionally given right to vote. Voter suppression was certainly not the reason so few persons voted, but it accounts for more missing votes than many citizens would ever guess or consider. The film “Suppressed 2020: The Fight to Vote” says as many as 17,000, 000 persons have been purged from the rolls. The House of Representatives attempted to reduce some of the suppression by passing legislation in December 2019 to restore the pre-clearance requirements the Supreme Court removed from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in 2013. However, Mitch McConnell has refused to call for a vote on this legislation—as he has done on several other pieces of legislation to strengthen voting rights. This one man has so much power that he can circumvent the will of the House of Representatives, ½ of Congress, so much power that he can check one of the three branches of government all by himself! (I realize that the bill might not pass because the Senate would most likely vote along party lines and defeat it, but at least we the people could see how many of our fellow citizens take seriously the idea of one person, one vote!)
Myriad are the ways of voter suppression. States in both the North and South required photo identification, moved ballot boxes and voting centers ended same-day registration, reduced or eliminated early voting, cut the number of days and/or hours of voting, restricted or denied vote by mail, required a witness for an absentee ballot. Add to that the possible intimidation from poll monitors. An excellent source for a record of suppression is Thom Hartmann’s The Hidden History of the War on Voting. And many states have instituted polices that deter rather than encourage citizens to vote. Georgia purged 300,000+ voters from the rolls. Activist groups attempting to get these people re-registered lost in court. Many individuals will always believe Stacey Abrams won the governorship. In Wisconsin 234,000 voters were purged. Said the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, “Hours after the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas implemented laws that had been barred since 1965….Georgia purged 8% of its registered voters ahead of the 2018 midterm election….107,000 people were removed for not voting in previous elections…attempted to block 53,000 registration applications, most… African Americans. Florida restored voting rights to over one million people convicted of felonies once they have completed their sentences.” This sounds good until you read the following sentence: “formerly incarcerated persons [must] pay all fees and fines as a condition to having their votes restored.” As many as “775,000 felons will not be able to vote if they have not paid back all fines, fees, and restitution,” said the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Now that Michael Bloomberg, LeBron James, and other athletes and entertainers have raised money to pay the fees, the state is working to prevent that action by arguing giving “incentives” to vote is illegal. Wisconsin’s Republican secretary of state refused to switch to mail-in votes and required voters to expose themselves to coronavirus-19. Texas, too, has made securing a mail-in vote a terrible headache.
Mother Jones says Texas is one of ten states with no online voting. Furthermore, “Anyone who wants to sign up voters must be deputized by each county they work in, every two years. Texas has an estimated 5.5 million unregistered but eligible voters—more people than the individual populations of 28 other states. The majority of them, according to the Texas Demo¬cratic Party, are young, people of color, or both, who would likely favor Democrats if they voted….” Texas limits mail-in voting for those under 65 to people who are out of town during the election, in jail, or have a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents them from going to the polls. Meanwhile, any voter 65 or older—the strongest age demographic for Donald Trump in 2016—can request an absentee ballot with no questions asked.”
Our civic and American history classes teach us the value of voting. In 1973 Paul Weyrich, a founder of the Heritage Foundation, said, "I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."
We the people should speak and show Weyrich and friends there is no place for his want because we sincerely want a great America.
Georgia S. McDade, a charter member of the African American Writers’ Alliance, began reading her stories in public in 1991 and credits the group with making her write poetry. Many poems are inspired by artists. Georgia writes for South Seattle Emerald and LeschiNews. She also does interviews for KVRU (105.7) and KBCS (107.3). Outside the Cave is the name of four volumes of poetry; Observation and Revelations: Stories, Sketches, and Essays is the name of her volume of prose.