WASN’T A VOTING RIGHTS ACT PASSED OVER 40 YEARS AGO BY CONGRESS?
When I was a senior year in high school, a neighbor of mine went on a Freedom Ride down South to register African American voters. When she returned, she was reluctant to talk about it with me and us neighborhood kids. The only thing she said was that it was too frightening for words. When the news reports of bus burnings and beatings by local sheriffs began appearing on television, we understood why. The frightening and viscous actions of Southern police went a long way to ensure the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, 46 years ago. One provision of this Act was the requirement that nine states, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, had to pre-clear any changes to their voting laws with Justice Department. It was this part of the Voting Rights Act that was struck down in a 5 to 4 decision by the Supreme Court in 2013.
We’re all aware of the Voter ID laws passed by Republican ruled state legislatures over the past few years, but there has been scant reporting on the massive attack on voting rights at local town, city, and country levels. Apparently, such un-Constitutional activities are a popular pastime in certain areas of the nation. This New York Times article details some of the Voting Rights actions (abuses, really) that have been taken since the oversight provisions of the Voting Rights Act was voided. Sure, it mainly details what’s happened in one locale in Georgia, perhaps not the most civil of America’s states when it comes to civil rights and equal treatment and all things racially just. Time, they say, slows down in the South, but who knew that the clock hadn’t moved for decades and is still stuck in a time warp that resembles the best days of the Jim Crow and Citizens’ Council era. The Times article is shocking and deeply disturbing no matter what your political beliefs. It chronicles an assault on one of our most basic of rights: the right to vote.
Here’s what’s been happening of late in Sparta, Georgia, a small town of 1,500 people located about 40 miles west of the Georgia state capital, Augusta.
SPARTA, Ga. — When the deputy sheriff’s patrol cruiser pulled up beside him as he walked down Broad Street at sunset last August, Martee Flournoy, a 32-year-old black man, was both confused and rattled. He had reason: In this corner of rural Georgia, African-Americans are arrested at a rate far higher than that of whites.
But the deputy had not come to arrest Mr. Flournoy. Rather, he had come to challenge Mr. Flournoy’s right to vote.
The majority-white Hancock County Board of Elections and Registration was systematically questioning the registrations of more than 180 black Sparta citizens — a fifth of the city’s registered voters — by dispatching deputies with summonses commanding them to appear in person to prove their residence or lose their voting rights. “When I read that letter, I was kind of nervous,” Mr. Flournoy said in an interview. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Imagine, if you can, one day you are waking down the sidewalk in your town and suddenly being questioned by a cop in a police cruiser next to you about your right to vote. By a cop? What the fuck? So when your local police can question you about the legality of your right to vote, what kind of place are we talking about? Zimbabwe? Russia? China? Because tactics like these are commonplace in those countries but not here. At least not here until recently.
Here’s a couple of additional choice quotes from the piece:
“Hancock County Attorney, Barry A. Fleming, a Republican stated: “The allegations that people were denied the right to vote are the opposite of the truth. This is probably more about politics and power than about race.” But the purge of Sparta voters is precisely the sort of electoral maneuver that once would have needed Justice Department approval before it could be put into effect.”
“Alabama moved last year to close 31 driver’s license offices, almost all in rural areas with large African American populations, as a cost-saving measure. Governor Robert J. Bentley, a Republican, has strongly denied that the closings were racially motivated.”
“A Federal lawsuit accuses Shelby County [Alabama] of illegally purging its voter rolls; in a recent two year period, the 372,000 voters scrubbed from the rolls, exceeded the number of new voters who were added. Secretary of State, Brian P. Kemp, has called the suit frivolous.”
Kemp, a Republican, has crusaded against what he called the threat of voter fraud, has investigated voter-registration drives by Asian-American and predominantly Black groups. A 2014 criminal inquiry a group that had registered 85,000 new voters, many of them minorities, found problems with only 25 of the new registrants, and no charges were filed.
The article cites more such examples around the country. Here’s the link: VOTER PURGE
These egregious assaults on minority citizens' right to vote cannot be considered “politics as usual” unless we are talking “politics as usual” as such practices existed in the Deep South back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. At base, what these actions represent, are a deep seated resistance to the changing demographics in the South and, indeed, across the rest of America. It is, without a doubt, the very same longing to go back to a Whiter, less diverse, less multi-cultural America that Donald Trump has keyed into. In the end, of course, such efforts are futile. Futile, that is, without a reactionary change in how we are governed. And while I understand why The Donald has attracted his narrow minded, bigoted followers, they don’t seem to understand the implications of Trump’s “I am the only one” who can bring about the change you want.
But I ask Trump’s supporters, if Donald Trump is the only one, the only force who can make sure that your desires, hopes and dreams are achieved, how does he do this? How is this accomplished? After all, we still have a Congress, a Supreme Court, a Federal Government and a reasonably strong representative Democracy with which the strongman approach to Governing is not only illogical and irrational, but in order to succeed would require the wholesale replacement of these long-standing institutions with a dictatorial regime with a Dictator at its head.
Let’s say just like Hitler and just like Mussolini.