Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Right to Vote Shall Not be Infringed

by Sunnyjane

In 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which made it illegal to discriminate against citizens based on their gender (women), race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion.

The Voting Rights Act was signed the following year with the sole intention of prohibiting state and local governments from imposing any qualification or prerequisite to voting that would deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.  To ensure compliance in states and specific localities with a history of discrimination, precise guidelines were put in place -- Sections 4 and 5 -- that required Department of Justice approval for changes in voting laws, processes, or procedures.

Where Men (and Women) Were NOT Created Equal

In what has always been hailed as a free country, it is embarrassing to people of good conscience to remember that many of our fellow citizens were denied the opportunity to vote due simply to the color of their skin.  And yet, it was so.

Because of the Constitution's Fifteenth Amendment, which became law in 1870 and banned federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude, it was illegal to be so obviously discriminatory as to post Whites Only signs at voter registration and polling sites.  However, racists always find a way around any law that actually gives a person of color a freedom that whites enjoy.  In some southern states -- and in California, oddly enough -- a poll tax was instituted that required every black to pay $2.00 just to vote.  That may not seem like a large amount today, but considering the mostly seasonal employment of black communities in the south, $4.00 for a husband and wife was tantamount to taking food out of the mouths of their children.

Other southern states were even more hostile to the idea of blacks voting, and actually required that African Americans pass what was cleverly referred to as a literacy test.  In Alabama, the test was administered by a white person -- who was solely responsible for deciding who passed and who didn't -- and the questions went like so: Name all the sixty-seven judges in the state; tell the date when Oklahoma was admitted to the Union; and answer how many bubbles are in a bar of soap.  No, seriously.

In Louisiana, a harsh written test was administered, which consisted of thirty questions.  Warning was given that one wrong answer meant the applicant had failed, and only ten minutes was allowed to complete the test.  Of the thirty presented, I have selected four at random as examples:

19.  Draw in the space below a square with a triangle in it and within that some [sic] triangle  draw a circle with a black dot in it.
20.  Spell backwards, forwards.
27.  Write right from the left to the right as you see it spelled here.
28. Divide a vertical line in two equal parts by bisecting it with a curved horizontal line that is straight at the point of bisection of the vertical.

If these test were administered to all Americans today as a registration prerequisite, nobody in this country would be allowed to vote.  Period. 

The Supreme Court, the Kochs, and the ALEC Bill-Mill

Passage of the Voting Rights Act brought an end to these restrictively discriminatory procedures and voting became an color-blind equal right for all Americans.  Safeguards in the act ensured that access to the ballot box was open and unconstrained.

The election of the first African American as president has not signaled a post-racist society to this country, but rather, has brought out a new plague of that disease.  The far-right fringe has escaped from under its rock and has elected some of the most anti-American public officials in the history of the country.  We now have thirty Republican governors -- many of whom were elected after 2008 -- who are determined to restrict the right to vote to Republican whites only.  

Thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council, Republican governors have passed laws that suppress voting in their states.  Many of these laws have been challenged and banned by the Department of Justice due to the Voting Rights Act formula for southern states.  However, the Supreme Court's recent decision to suggest that congress come up with a new formula is about as effective as suggesting that George Zimmerman might want to rethink his decision to carry a concealed weapon in the future.  Won't happen.

Find Me Some Dead Voters -- Quick!

So certain was Gov. Nikki Haley (R-Zombie World) that dead people were voting in South Carolina elections that she had two or three (hell, I lost count) studies done in 2012.  Results: NO DEAD PEOPLE VOTED.  

Rick Scott in Florida decided to do a purity-purge of its voter rolls to eliminate non-citizens.  (No word on how non-citizens got on the rolls in the first place.)  In so doing, the elections officials informed a ninety-one-year-old veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge near the end of World War II and has voted for many years, that he couldn't vote.  

And Rick Perry did a happy-dance shortly after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, announcing that Texas would go forward immediately to enact the state's ID laws and other restrictive voter suppression laws...  



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