America’s Wake-Up Call – Voting & Voters — Part II

Last Wednesday, we began with Part I of our three-part reprisal from earlier posts in February & March.  One of the biggest hurdles to free and fair elections in this country are those who don’t vote for one reason or another.  It is always important, for our vote is our voice, but this year so much is riding on the election in November that we felt it was important … nay, critical … to re-post this series about why people don’t vote.


Only 67% of all eligible voters are even registered to vote.  That is only two out of every three adults.  In last week’s post, we looked at the reasons people gave for not voting, some of which were ludicrous, such as “forgot”, “weather”, and “too busy”.  But there are some legitimate reasons that people do not vote.  To understand these, I think it is important to look at some of the demographics of the non-voters.

Race

Among white voters, 73.5% of eligible voters did actually vote in 2016.  But minorities were much less likely to vote, with only 69.7% of African-Americans, 59.4% of Latinos, and the lowest group being Asians at 55.3%.

Age

Not surprisingly, the percentage of eligible voters who vote increases with age:

Age 18 to 24       58.5%

Age 25 to 34       66.4%

Age 35 to 44       69.9%

Age 45 to 54       73.5%

Age 55 to 64       76.6%

Age 65 to 74       78.1%

Age 75 or older 76.6%

But, after the February 2018 Parkland, Florida school shooting,  the percentage of young voters voting took a significant leap in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Education

There is absolutely nothing surprising in this set of statistics:

Less than high school graduate  50.5%

High school graduate      64.1%

Some college     75.3%

Bachelor’s degree            81.2%

Advanced degree            85.8%

Income

Again, no real surprises here:

Less than $20,000           63.7%

$20,000 to $29,999          67.1%

$30,000 to $39,999          71.1%

$40,000 to $49,999          72.6%

$50,000 to $74,999          78.2%

$75,000 to $99,999          81.9%

$100,000 and over          79.6%

While this one isn’t surprising, it is disturbing, for the very people who most need fairness from our government are the least likely to vote to make a difference.

Taken together, when we look at the demographics, look at who is and who isn’t voting, is it any wonder that we currently have a government that is “Of the wealthy white people, By the wealthy white people, and For the wealthy white people”?  They are the ones who vote!

All of the above statistics are understandable when put into context.  There are a number of things that have led to the disenfranchisement of lower income and minority voters.  Consider gerrymandering, redistricting states so that most minorities are grouped into as few as districts as possible so as to be given a much weaker voice than their white counterparts.  I have shared this graphic before, but it is still the clearest, most understandable explanation of how gerrymandering can change the outcome of an election:And then there are the various efforts by many states to make it more difficult for lower income and minorities to vote, such as shortening the hours that polls are open, and closing polling places in poorer or predominantly minority areas. Twenty states do not allow a person convicted of a felony to vote while serving a sentence or while on probation.  Two states, Florida and Virginia, permanently disallow convicted felons voting privileges.

In some cases, voter I.D. may be difficult to obtain.  Consider these cases:

A 96-year-old woman in Tennessee was denied a voter-ID card despite presenting four forms of identification, including her birth certificate. A World War II veteran was turned away in Ohio because his Department of Veterans Affairs photo ID didn’t include his address. Andrea Anthony, a 37-year-old black woman from Wisconsin who had voted in every major election since she was 18, couldn’t vote in 2016 because she had lost her driver’s license a few days before. – New York Times, 10 March 2018

In 1965, Congress passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed into law, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, perhaps the single most important piece of legislation to come from the Civil Rights movement.  It eliminated certain barriers to voting, such as literacy testing and other requirements that denied many blacks the right to vote.  Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act precluded certain states and districts that had a history of disenfranchising blacks, from implementing any change affecting voting without receiving pre-approval from the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for D.C.  But in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 5 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.  Chief Justice John Roberts said, essentially, that times had changed and the Court believed racial discrimination was no longer the problem it was in the 1960s.  I wonder if he would still say that today?  Almost immediately on the heels of this ruling, Texas announced new voter identification laws and redistricting maps.  Other states in the South followed suit.

Referring back to last Wednesday’s post, we looked at some of the reasons people gave for not voting.  When we look at the 6% who said they did not vote due to ‘registration problems’, or the 2.7% who claimed ‘inconvenient polling place’, or the 2.6% who said they had ‘transportation problems’, perhaps we can understand those reasons.  Consider the single mom who is not allowed to take time off work, so she goes to vote after work. The polling station in her neighborhood closed last year, so she now has to take a bus to her new polling place 45 minutes away from where she works.  Meanwhile, her children are home alone with nobody to cook their supper, or supervise them.  What would you do?

It is obvious that there are some people who do not vote with good reason.  We need to find solutions to the barriers for minorities and others who are truly disenfranchised.  We also need to find ways to inspire and motivate those who make excuses not to vote, to convince them that their vote is crucial.  And we need to make voting more accessible to all.  In Part III, we will take a look at some things that may contribute to increasing the numbers of people who vote.  There is no single panacea, but I believe there are a number of things that can be done at the federal and state levels, as well as by people like me and you, people who care about our country.  Stay tuned …

America’s Wake-Up Call — Table of Contents

Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents

Discord & Dissension – Part IX – The Courts

Today, Jeff has outdone himself on Part IX of our project, Discord & Dissension — The Courts. Many people don’t give much thought to the courts as a rule, but Jeff shows us just why it is so very important to consider the impact a president can have on the Judiciary. Thanks Jeff … this one is a real eye-opener!

On The Fence Voters

Now that Super Tuesday is behind us, and we’re down to a two-person race between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, it’s time to start thinking about what it’s going to take to get out the vote. If yesterday is any indication, with massive turnout all around the country, it’s apparent that defeating Donald Trump is on everybody’s mind. But it can’t be the only reason.

Jill and I began our project several weeks ago, and it’s still evolving. But, we’ve indeed entered a new phase in the campaign to defeat Donald Trump in 2020. And today, with Part 9 in our series, I’m going to discuss a subject that rarely gets covered, especially in Democratic circles: The Courts.

And, in my view, it’s time for both of our Democratic candidates to start addressing how important it’s going to be to not only win the presidency but also take back the…

View original post 1,385 more words

Black History Month — The First Black Voter

Today is February 1st … well, okay, by the time you’re reading this it’s actually February 2nd, but right now, as I am writing, it is February 1st.  February 1st marks the beginning of this year’s Black History Month.  Now, obviously I cannot give Black History Month the attention it deserves, but I do plan a few posts throughout the month.  This year’s theme could not be more relevant to the times, and although this post is not part of mine and Jeff’s project, Discord & Dissension, it ties in nicely with our theme this week.  The 2020 Black History theme is African Americans and the Vote.

black-history-2020The year 2020 marks the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment and the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement.  The year 2020 also marks the sesquicentennial of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) and the right of black men to the ballot after the Civil War.  The theme speaks, therefore, to the ongoing struggle on the part of both black men and black women for the right to vote. This theme has a rich and long history, which begins at the turn of the nineteenth century, i.e., in the era of the Early Republic, with the states’ passage of laws that democratized the vote for white men while disfranchising free black men. Thus, even before the Civil War, black men petitioned their legislatures and the US Congress, seeking to be recognized as voters. Tensions between abolitionists and women’s suffragists first surfaced in the aftermath of the Civil War, while black disfranchisement laws in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries undermined the guarantees in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments for the great majority of southern blacks until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The important contribution of black suffragists occurred not only within the larger women’s movement, but within the larger black voting rights movement. Through voting-rights campaigns and legal suits from the turn of the twentieth century to the mid-1960s, African Americans made their voices heard as to the importance of the vote.  Indeed, the fight for black voting rights continues in the courts today.  The theme of the vote should also include the rise of black elected and appointed officials at the local and national levels, campaigns for equal rights legislation, as well as the role of blacks in traditional and alternative political parties.

So, today let’s take a look at the very first African-American to cast a vote in the United States …

Thomas_Mundy

America’s first Black vote was cast in New Jersey

On Feb. 3, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting “the federal government and each state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s race, color, or previous condition of servitude” giving Black men the right to vote across the nation.

Just under a month later the first African American vote was cast in Perth Amboy, N.J. on March 31, 1870 by Thomas Mundy Peterson.

Born in 1824 in Metuchen, N.J., Peterson was the son of ex-slave Lucy Green. Peterson worked as a janitor and handyman in Perth Amboy.

After the Fifteenth Amendment was enacted, Peterson participated in Perth Amboy’s local election held at city hall over the city’s charter. A member of the Republican and Prohibition Parties, he cast his ballot in favor of revising the existing charter, making him the first African American to vote in any election in the nation.

Along with being the first Black person to vote in America, he was also the first Black person in Perth Amboy to serve on a jury. Peterson would go on to be one of seven people appointed to make amendments to the charter’s revisions he voted in favor of.

In 1884, in honor of his history-making ballot, the Perth Amboy community raised the equivalent of $1,800 in modern dollars to buy Peterson a gold medallion featuring Abraham Lincoln’s profile.

“Presented by the citizens of Perth Amboy, N.J. to Thomas Peterson the first colored voter in the provisions of the 15th Amendment at an election held in that city March 31st 1870,” the medallion’s inscription states.

Peterson died in 1904 at the age of 79. The medallion Peterson received is housed at the historically Black Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. In 2017, the university loaned the medallion to the City of Perth Amboy for a presentation at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

“During the 19th century, and even up to the present day, many communities have attempted to stop African Americans from voting. Perth Amboy is different, that is, we encouraged the right to vote,” said local businessman and historian John Kerry Dyke. “The Thomas Mundy Peterson medal is more than just an award. It represents the efforts of all good people that want to enfranchise America’s voters. It embodies the concept that all men are created equal.” – Cyril Josh Baker, New York Amsterdam News, 30 January 2020

Discord & Dissension – Part IV (b) – Voting & Voters

Only 67% of all eligible voters are even registered to vote.  That is only two out of every three adults.  In yesterday’s post, we looked at the reasons people gave for not voting, some of which were ludicrous, such as “forgot”, “weather”, and “too busy”.  But there are some legitimate reasons that people do not vote.  To understand these, I think it is important to look at some of the demographics of the non-voters.

Race

Among white voters, 73.5% of eligible voters did actually vote in 2016.  But minorities were much less likely to vote, with only 69.7% of African-Americans, 59.4% of Latinos, and the lowest group being Asians at 55.3%.

Age

Not surprisingly, the percentage of eligible voters who vote increases with age:

Age 18 to 24       58.5%

Age 25 to 34       66.4%

Age 35 to 44       69.9%

Age 45 to 54       73.5%

Age 55 to 64       76.6%

Age 65 to 74       78.1%

Age 75 or older 76.6%

But, after the February 2018 Parkland, Florida school shooting,  the percentage of young voters voting took a significant leap in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Education

There is absolutely nothing surprising in this set of statistics:

Less than high school graduate  50.5%

High school graduate      64.1%

Some college     75.3%

Bachelor’s degree            81.2%

Advanced degree            85.8%

Income

Again, no real surprises here:

Less than $20,000           63.7%

$20,000 to $29,999          67.1%

$30,000 to $39,999          71.1%

$40,000 to $49,999          72.6%

$50,000 to $74,999          78.2%

$75,000 to $99,999          81.9%

$100,000 and over          79.6%

While this one isn’t surprising, it is disturbing, for the very people who most need fairness from our government are the least likely to vote to make a difference.

Taken together, when we look at the demographics, look at who is and who isn’t voting, is it any wonder that we currently have a government that is “Of the wealthy white people, By the wealthy white people, and For the wealthy white people”?  They are the ones who vote!

All of the above statistics are understandable when put into context.  There are a number of things that have led to the disenfranchisement of lower income and minority voters.  Consider gerrymandering, redistricting states so that most minorities are grouped into as few as districts as possible so as to be given a much weaker voice than their white counterparts.  I have shared this graphic before, but it is still the clearest, most understandable explanation of how gerrymandering can change the outcome of an election:And then there are the various efforts by many states to make it more difficult for lower income and minorities to vote, such as shortening the hours that polls are open, and closing polling places in poorer or predominantly minority areas. Twenty states do not allow a person convicted of a felony to vote while serving a sentence or while on probation.  Two states, Florida and Virginia, permanently disallow convicted felons voting privileges.

In some cases, voter I.D. may be difficult to obtain.  Consider these cases:

A 96-year-old woman in Tennessee was denied a voter-ID card despite presenting four forms of identification, including her birth certificate. A World War II veteran was turned away in Ohio because his Department of Veterans Affairs photo ID didn’t include his address. Andrea Anthony, a 37-year-old black woman from Wisconsin who had voted in every major election since she was 18, couldn’t vote in 2016 because she had lost her driver’s license a few days before. – New York Times, 10 March 2018

In 1965, Congress passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed into law, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, perhaps the single most important piece of legislation to come from the Civil Rights movement.  It eliminated certain barriers to voting, such as literacy testing and other requirements that denied many blacks the right to vote.  Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act precluded certain states and districts that had a history of disenfranchising blacks, from implementing any change affecting voting without receiving pre-approval from the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for D.C.  But in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 5 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.  Chief Justice John Roberts said, essentially, that times had changed and the Court believed racial discrimination was no longer the problem it was in the 1960s.  Almost immediately on the heels of this ruling, Texas announced new voter identification laws and redistricting maps.  Other states in the South followed suit.

Referring back to yesterday’s post, we looked at some of the reasons people gave for not voting.  When we look at the 6% who said they did not vote due to ‘registration problems’, or the 2.7% who claimed ‘inconvenient polling place’, or the 2.6% who said they had ‘transportation problems’, perhaps we can understand those reasons.  Consider the single mom who is not allowed to take time off work, so she goes to vote after work. The polling station in her neighborhood closed last year, so she now has to take a bus to her new polling place 45 minutes away from where she works.  Meanwhile, her children are home alone with nobody to cook their supper, or supervise them.  What would you do?

It is obvious that there are some people who do not vote with good reason.  We need to find solutions to the barriers for minorities and others who are truly disenfranchised.  We also need to find ways to inspire and motivate those who make excuses not to vote, to convince them that their vote is crucial.  And we need to make voting more accessible to all.  In Part III, we will take a look at some things that may contribute to increasing the numbers of people who vote.  There is no single panacea, but I believe there are a number of things that can be done at the federal and state levels, as well as by people like me and you, people who care about our country.  Stay tuned …

One Person, No Vote

One Person No VoteA new book was released today.  No, I’m not talking about Bob Woodward’s Fear:  Trump in the White House, although I did start reading that last night … actually this morning around 4:00 a.m.  No, the new book I’m talking about is by Carol Anderson, and the title is One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy.

From Amazon …

From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of White Rage, the startling–and timely–history of voter suppression in America, with a foreword by Senator Dick Durbin.

In her New York Times bestseller White Rage, Carol Anderson laid bare an insidious history of policies that have systematically impeded black progress in America, from 1865 to our combustible present. With One Person, No Vote, she chronicles a related history: the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Known as the Shelby ruling, this decision effectively allowed districts with a demonstrated history of racial discrimination to change voting requirements without approval from the Department of Justice.

Focusing on the aftermath of Shelby, Anderson follows the astonishing story of government-dictated racial discrimination unfolding before our very eyes as more and more states adopt voter suppression laws. In gripping, enlightening detail she explains how voter suppression works, from photo ID requirements to gerrymandering to poll closures. And with vivid characters, she explores the resistance: the organizing, activism, and court battles to restore the basic right to vote to all Americans as the nation gears up for the 2018 midterm elections.

Carol AndersonMs. Anderson is Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies at Emory University and well-qualified to write on this topic.  One example from her book is astounding, and not in any good way:

Jeff Sessions, for example, when he was Alabama U.S. attorney, referred to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as an “intrusive piece of legislation,” then “rounded up twenty elderly blacks and had Alabama state troopers drive them away from their community into a predominately white area to be fingerprinted, photographed and grilled before a grand jury” to intimidate them out of voting. – From an interview published in Kirkus Reviews

And, as if to prove the point, just yesterday the Editorial Board at The Washington Post published the following:

The GOP finds yet another way to suppress the vote

IT WAS 5 p.m. on a Friday, just as Labor Day weekend was starting, when, without warning, faxes arrived at North Carolina’s state board of elections and 44 county election boards. The faxes contained a demand so outlandish — and so blatantly in violation of state privacy laws — that several officials assumed they were a hoax. A federal subpoena demanded practically every voting document imaginable, going back years. Absentee, provisional and regular ballots. Registration applications. Early-voting applications. Absentee ballot requests. Poll books.

In fact, it was no hoax. The subpoena sought a list of items which, if satisfied, would force state and local officials to produce at least 20 million documents — in less than four weeks. Prosecutors also demanded eight years of records from the state Division of Motor Vehicles, through which voters are allowed to register to vote. No explanation was provided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement or federal prosecutors, who sought the documents. It is a fishing expedition by the Trump administration to support the president’s repeatedly discredited assertions that voting fraud is widespread, especially by noncitizens casting illegal ballots.

The effect of this expedition, led by Robert J. Higdon Jr., the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, is easy to foresee: This is one more in a long line of GOP efforts to suppress the vote. Members of the state board of elections, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, voted unanimously to fight the subpoena, which would overwhelm local boards’ administrative capacity. It also would intimidate voters who, with good reason, would fear their votes and other sensitive information were being handed over to federal officials.

Faced with an outcry from state and local officials, prosecutors dropped their initial, preposterous demand that the records be handed over by Sept. 25, a deadline that would have played havoc with preparations for the fall elections. They also said state officials could redact voters’ choices on some 2.2 million early and absentee ballots — a clerical task that would consume untold hours of work. (More than 3.3 million regular ballots cannot be traced to the voters who cast them.)

The absurdity of the document demand, and the president’s broader assertion that the U.S. voting system is “rigged” and marred by massive fraudulent voting and the participation of illegal immigrants, was underscored by indictments announced last month, also in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The indictments charged 19 foreign nationals — from Japan, Italy, South Korea, Germany, Poland, Mexico, Haiti, Grenada and several other countries — with voting illegally in the 2016 elections.

Nineteen illegal votes, out of more than 4.5 million ballots cast in North Carolina that year, is minuscule. Far from justifying a demand for millions of documents, it underscores the conclusion by dozens of reputable scholars and other investigators that illegal voting is exceedingly rare. That the administration pursues its crusade to show otherwise is an exercise in unicorn-spotting, but it is also something far more sinister. The real agenda is to discredit American democracy and to scare away Democratic-leaning voters. It represents an abominable misuse of law enforcement powers.

It would seem that the GOP is fairly certain they cannot maintain their majority in Congress in a fair and honest election, so the next best thing is to stifle the voters’ voices.  Trump’s claim of the system being rigged may be prophetic, rather than historical.  The North Carolina subpoena reeks of corruption, but it also appears to signal panic within the GOP.

Anderson’s advice for overcoming the challenges is to “Be engaged. Register and vote. Get the people around you to register and vote. Really engage with the issues. Understand the position of the Secretary of State in your state who sits over election machinery. Donate to the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, who are fighting to open up the ballot box, to rid the nation of unequal democracy.”

The election on November 6th is our last best hope to curtail the rampant corruption that defines the Trump administration.  Spread the word …

On Voters Not Voting – Part II: The Demographics

Only 67% or all eligible voters are even registered to vote.  That is only two out of every three adults.  In Part I of this project, I looked at the reasons people gave for not voting, some of which were ludicrous, such as “forgot”, “weather”, and “too busy”.  But there are some legitimate reasons that people do not vote.  To understand these, I think it is important to look at some of the demographics of the non-voters.

Race

Among white voters, 73.5% of eligible voters did actually vote in 2016.  But minorities were much less likely to vote, with only 69.7% of African-Americans, 59.4% of Latinos, and the lowest group being Asians at 55.3%.

Age

Not surprisingly, the percentage of eligible voters who vote increases with age:

Age 18 to 24       58.5%

Age 25 to 34       66.4%

Age 35 to 44       69.9%

Age 45 to 54       73.5%

Age 55 to 64       76.6%

Age 65 to 74       78.1%

Age 75 or older 76.6%

I suspect, with the heightened awareness of young people in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in February, we will see an increase in the 18-24 age group this November.

Education

There is absolutely nothing surprising in this set of statistics:

Less than high school graduate  50.5%

High school graduate      64.1%

Some college     75.3%

Bachelor’s degree            81.2%

Advanced degree            85.8%

Income

Again, no real surprises here:

Income less than $20,000              63.7%

$20,000 to $29,999          67.1%

$30,000 to $39,999          71.1%

$40,000 to $49,999          72.6%

$50,000 to $74,999          78.2%

$75,000 to $99,999          81.9%

$100,000 and over          79.6%

While this one isn’t surprising, it is disturbing, for the very people who most need fairness from our government are the least likely to vote to make a difference.

Taken together, when we look at the demographics, look at who is and who isn’t voting, is it any wonder that we currently have a government that is “Of the wealthy white people, By the wealthy white people, and For the wealthy white people”?  They are the ones who vote!

All of the above statistics are understandable when put into context.  There are a number of things that have led to the disenfranchisement of lower income and minority voters.  Consider gerrymandering, redistricting states so that most minorities are grouped into as few as districts as possible so as to be given a much weaker voice than their white counterparts.  I have shared this graphic before, but it is still the clearest, most understandable explanation of how gerrymandering can change the outcome of an election:And then there are the various efforts by many states to make it more difficult for lower income and minorities to vote, such as shortening the hours that polls are open, and closing polling places in poorer or predominantly minority areas. Twenty states do not allow a person convicted of a felony to vote while serving a sentence or while on probation.  Two states, Florida and Virginia, permanently disallow convicted felons voting privileges.

In some cases, voter I.D. may be difficult to obtain.  Consider these cases:

A 96-year-old woman in Tennessee was denied a voter-ID card despite presenting four forms of identification, including her birth certificate. A World War II veteran was turned away in Ohio because his Department of Veterans Affairs photo ID didn’t include his address. Andrea Anthony, a 37-year-old black woman from Wisconsin who had voted in every major election since she was 18, couldn’t vote in 2016 because she had lost her driver’s license a few days before. – New York Times, 10 March 2018

In 1965, Congress passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed into law, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, perhaps the single most important piece of legislation to come from the Civil Rights movement.  It eliminated certain barriers to voting, such as literacy testing and other requirements that denied many blacks the right to vote.  Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act precluded certain states and districts that had a history of disenfranchising blacks, from implementing any change affecting voting without receiving preapproval from the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for D.C.  But in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 5 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.  Chief Justice John Roberts said, essentially, that times had changed and the Court believed racial discrimination was no longer the problem it was in the 1960s.  Almost immediately on the heels of this ruling, Texas announced new voter identification laws and redistricting maps.  Other states in the South followed suit.

Referring back to Part I of this project, we looked at some of the reasons people gave for not voting.  When we look at the 6% who said they did not vote due to ‘registration problems’, or the 2.7% who claimed ‘inconvenient polling place’, or the 2.6% who said they had ‘transportation problems’, perhaps we can understand those reasons.  Consider the single mom who is not allowed to take time off work, so she goes to vote after work. The polling station in her neighborhood closed last year, so she now has to take a bus to her new polling place 45 minutes away from where she works.  Meanwhile, her children are home alone with nobody to cook their supper, or supervise them.  What would you do?

It is obvious that there are some people who do not vote with good reason.  We need to find solutions to the barriers for minorities and others who are truly disenfranchised.  We also need to find ways to inspire and motivate those who make excuses not to vote, to convince them that their vote is important.  And we need to make voting more accessible to all.  In Part III, we will take a look at some things that may contribute to increasing the numbers of people who vote.  There is no single panacea, but I believe there are a number of things that can be done at the federal and state levels, as well as by people like me and you, people who care about our country.  Stay tuned …

This is Part II of a 3-part project on Voters not Voting.  Part III will look at some things that can be done to help solve the problem and get people to the polls on November 6th.

Voter Suppression – 2016

vra-1The Voting Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 6, 1965, aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote under the 15th Amendment (1870) to the Constitution of the United States. The act significantly widened the franchise and is considered among the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history.

In 2013, the Supreme Court declared that voter discrimination was no longer a problem and effectively struck down the only portion of the act designed to stop discrimination before it affects an election. The court let stand the provisions of the act that allow lawsuits after a discriminatory law takes effect, but unfortunately, the United States has learned the hard way that there is no satisfactory cure for discrimination after an election occurs.

vra-2Under the 1965 law, jurisdictions with a history of discrimination had to submit changes in voting practices to the Justice Department for review. But in 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down the trigger used to determine which jurisdictions would be subject to preclearance, effectively removing this safeguard. In 2015, U.S. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, and U.S. Representative John Conyers introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015 which would apply preclearance evenly among all 50 states. Under the new law, any state or jurisdiction that demonstrates a consistent pattern of discriminatory voting practices would be subject to preclearance. When the discrimination stops, the jurisdiction would automatically be freed from the requirement. This bill offers a modern and thoughtful response to voter discrimination that ensures the minimal possible federal interference in state elections. Unfortunately, despite the legislation having more than 100 co-sponsors, Congress still has not acted on it.

vra-3Which brings us to today, less than a week from election day, and in seven southern states alone, some 868 polling locations have been eliminated, thus ensuring that in the areas where polling places were closed, voters will have longer distances to travel and longer lines to stand in.  Arizona’s most populous county, Maricopa County (coincidentally home to controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio) slashed the number of available polling places from 200 to 60, calling it a “cost-effective” move. In the March primary, this county saw voters waiting in line for 5 hours, many turning away rather than wait, and some polling places ran out of ballots.  There was, in Maricopa County, approximately 1 polling place for every 21,000 voters.

poll-closings

# of polling locations closed in 7 southern states = 868

More than a few times in the past year, I have stated my belief that when it comes to civil rights we are moving backward rather than forward.  The fact that 868 polling places closed in a mere 7 states, all southern states, seems to validate my belief.  It isn’t just in the south, either.  Rhode Island cut 66% of its polling places, as did some counties in Indiana where hundreds of voters were turned away after the polls closed.

In March 2012, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed into law one of the most restrictive Voter ID laws on the books.  Republicans praised the bill as a measure to prevent voter fraud, while Democrats accused them of trying to disenfranchise minority, elderly and urban voters. Three months later, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai was caught on videotape saying, “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: done.”

This year in North Carolina, GOP leaders launched a meticulous and coordinated effort to deter black voters, who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats. The law, created and passed entirely by white legislators, evoked the state’s ugly history of blocking African Americans from voting. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the 4th Circuit recognized the legislature’s discriminatory intent and struck down the law. Republican Governor Pat McCrory tried to appeal, but the Supreme Court refused to stay the lower court’s order, thus the law will not be in effect for this year’s election. Score one for justice!

Federal courts have also struck down new voting restrictions in Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas and North Dakota. In all cases, the laws were enacted by Republican legislatures and governors. And in all cases, discriminatory impact on minority voters is at issue.  What’s next … literacy tests?  Poll taxes?  This whole thing reminds me of trying to blow out those trick candles that keep re-lighting themselves on a birthday cake … you think you’ve blown out all the candles, then another starts burning again, then another.  Just when we thought we had fairness and justice for all in voting rights, fires keep popping up, trying to deprive U.S. citizens of their Constitutional right! 

Federal Judge James Peterson, who struck down a series of voting restrictions in Wisconsin this year, wrote: “The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections, particularly in minority communities. To put it bluntly, Wisconsin’s strict version of voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease.”.

We elect people to represent us in our counties, our states, and in Washington.  We elect these public servants with the expectation that they will be fair and honest and do the best job they can to represent all the people of the United States, not just people with light skin or European ancestry! All these attempts by the GOP to keep African-Americans from voting this year indicate one thing:  Republicans do not have faith that their candidates can win an honest election. To disenfranchise African-Americans, Hispanics, and other groups simply to win is an abomination! Are we, as a nation, truly willing to reverse the strides in equality, gains in the democratic process, that were made more than 50 years ago?  If we are, then perhaps we deserve what we get. Think about it.

Voter Suppression – 2016 Style

 

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

The headline in The Washington Post read:

Group accuses Mike Pence of voter suppression after state police raid registration program in Indiana

The story:  On Oct. 4, one week before the state’s deadline to register to vote, state police raided the Indianapolis office of the Indiana Voter Registration Project, seizing computers, cellphones and records. A spokesman for the state police told local news media that “at least 10” applications were confirmed to be fraudulent. Craig Varoga, director for the group Patriot Majority, estimates that as many as 45,000 people, most of them African Americans, might not be able to vote on Nov. 8 because their applications were seized during the raid.

The ‘at least 10’ applications in question were found to be fraudulent for minor inaccuracies like missing zip codes and area codes.  However, Indiana Secretary of State, Connie Lawson, issued a letter  stating in part:

“Indiana Registration Voter Project has turned in forged voter registration applications. The group was altering already registered voter’s information.  The group would change the voter’s address to an address not associated with the voter without the voter’s knowledge.”

Certainly none of us support fraudulent voter registration, but the reality is that voter fraud in the U.S. is virtually non-existent. And I find it rather strange that the target in Indiana was a group whose goal was to register African-Americans?  Mike Pence, in a recent campaign stop in Iowa, said,

“In the state of Indiana, we have a pretty vigorous investigation into voter fraud going on right now. And I encourage you here in Iowa, let’s be sure that our state officials are upholding the principle of ‘one person, one vote’ and the best antidote to that is to be involved in the election process. If you are concerned about voter integrity and you haven’t signed up to be a poll watcher, to volunteer at a polling place to be a part of the integrity of that process, then you need to do it.”

The term ‘poll watchers’ raises my hackles and sounds rather Orwellian.  I first heard the term when Trump warned his supporters that the presidential election might be stolen from him and said it might be necessary for them to go to “certain areas” and keep an eye out for people trying to “vote five times.”  He has called on his supporters to monitor the polls on Election Day, and said that voting locations should “have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching.”  This is clearly voter intimidation … I would, frankly, be intimidated by a heavy police presence and people ‘watching’ my every move.

As it happens, I did a brief bit of research on ‘poll watchers’.  It is not a new concept, however its use as is being called for by Trump/Pence may lead to widespread discrimination and in some cases voter intimidation and suppression. According to Politico :

“Since 2000, when voting irregularities in Florida cast a pall over the entire presidential election, election monitoring has steadily increased in scope and sophistication. Some will work to ensure that the voting runs smoothly. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, for example, recently announced its plan for a ten-fold increase in the number of monitors it will place in U.S. polling locations. But others will be there for less altruistic reasons. November 2016 will be the first presidential vote in 50 years without the guarantee of federal observers to protect voters from discrimination.

Trump does not seem concerned about protecting voters from discrimination or ensuring that all eligible voters are able to cast their ballots. Instead, he’s concerned that he will lose. Informed by the candidate’s “rigged” rhetoric and suggestions that there is widespread voter fraud, Trump’s observers seem primed to mainly challenge voters’ eligibility.”

Apart from the seemingly racist raid in Indiana and the Trump/Pence call for ‘poll watchers’, a number of other voter suppression tactics have been noted this year, such as:

  • Voter ID laws – while it makes sense for a potential voter to present ID, some states are limiting the ID to only certain types of photo identifications, IDs that may be difficult for some voters to obtain. In Wisconsin, for example, the law stated that homeless veterans could not use their veteran’s ID, but must present a driver’s license or state-issued ID.  How many homeless people likely have a driver’s license?  Or the money to obtain a state ID?
  • Limited voting and registration hours – some states have cut early voting days, early morning voting hours, and same-day registration. While most white-collar workers can likely take time from work to go vote, most blue-collar workers cannot do so without being penalized by their employers.
  • Proof of citizenship – this is in addition to another voter ID

In years past, campaigns have used deceptive practices:

  • In 2004, minority neighborhoods in Milwaukee, Wisconsin received flyers from a fictitious organization called the “Milwaukee Black Voters League,” claiming that if you had already voted in any election that year that you could not vote and if you had even minor infractions, like parking tickets, you were disqualified from voting.
  • In 2008 flyers were distributed to voters in Virginia stating, “Due to larger than expected voter turnout in this year’s electoral process,” people supporting Republican candidates vote on November 4th (actual Election Day) and Democrats vote on the following day.
  • In 2008, Drexel University students were targeted with flyers posted around campus warning them that undercover officers would be at polling locations ready to arrest students if they had any outstanding warrants or traffic violations in an effort to suppress their vote.
  • In 2003, African-American voters in Philadelphia encountered men with official-looking-but-fake federal officer credentials asking them for certain forms of identification before they voted. Well-known anti-immigrant activists in Arizona took these tactics to the next level in 2006, bringing clipboards, a camcorder and a gun to polling places with large numbers of Hispanic voters; they picked out Hispanic voters and approached them to take photographs, claiming that it was part of an effort to identify illegal immigrants and felons.

And it goes on … and on … and on.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of the Civil Rights Movement on August 6, 1965, and Congress later amended the Act five times to expand its protections. The Act is considered to be the most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever enacted in the country.

Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was struck down by the US Supreme Court in 2013.  Section 4 designates which parts of the country (states and locales that have a history of voter discrimination) must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court. The Supreme Court struck it down because they felt that we had come so far in the last 50 years that discrimination was no longer a problem.  This year, some 14 states have passed laws that are potentially discriminatory in nature, targeting minorities, the homeless, the poor, and others.  Those states are:  Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The U.S. Constitution stated in Amendment XV, which was ratified by the states in 1870: “Section 1. 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.”   I am not sure what part of that is so difficult to understand, but it would seem that some politicians feel they are justified in doing whatever it takes, including breaking the law, to win an election.  I think that, in and of itself, should be a disqualification for holding any public office.  The President of the United States is sworn to uphold the Constitution.  How is calling for voter intimidation and suppression considered ‘upholding’ the Constitution? No, we do not have poll taxes and tests as we once did, but it seems that the attempt to keep certain groups of people from casting their vote is alive and well in 2016. Think about it.

Hillary Clinton – On The Issues (Part V – Racial Justice)

 

“If we stand with each other now, we can build a future where no one is left out or left behind, and everyone can share in the promise of America—which is big enough for everyone, not to be reserved for a few.” – Hillary Clinton, July 8, 2016

“Fifty years after Rosa Parks sat and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched and John Lewis bled, it’s hard to believe Americans are still forced to fight for their right to vote—especially in places where the civil rights movement fought so hard all those years ago.” – Hillary, October 17, 2015

 

tutu

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

 

I continue with my look at Hillary Clinton’s stance on the important issues facing our nation and the next president.  Today I am looking, specifically, at item #4, Racial Equality. The full list of 38 items can be found in my first post of this series,  Hillary Clinton – On The Issues (Part I – Labour and Worker’s Rights), Racial Equality.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits racial discrimination in voting.

The Civil Rights Act of 1968 provided for equal housing opportunities regardless of race, creed, or national origin and made it a federal crime to “by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone … by reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin.”

There are many other pieces of legislation enacted to end discrimination and bring about racial equality in America during and since the 1960s, but these are the most prominent.  So, racism no longer exists in America, right?  Wrong. Not only does it still exist, but its ugly head is rising ever higher during this divisive and contentious election year. Government action, laws passed, are all essential to ending discrimination, but at its core, an end to racism must come from the hearts and minds of the nation’s citizenry.  Small slights against people of minority races cannot be legislated away.  That said, government cannot rest on its laurels and leave the issue of racial justice to ‘We The People’, for we shall almost certainly fail to act appropriately, left to our own devices.  Hillary Clinton has put forth her ideas about what government can and should do to help bring equality to all races and an end to racial discrimination.

  • Reform our broken criminal justice system by reforming sentencing laws and policies, ending racial profiling by law enforcement, strengthening the bonds of trust between communities and police, and more. Read more here.
  • Protect the right to vote by fighting to repair the Voting Rights Act and implementing universal, automatic voter registration so that every American will be registered to vote when they turn 18, unless they opt out. Read more here.
  • Protect immigrants’ rights and keep families together by fighting for comprehensive immigration reform, including a full and equal pathway to citizenship and an end to family detention and private immigrant detention centers. Read more here.
  • End the epidemic of gun violence in our communities. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for young African American men—more than the next nine leading causes combined. We must do more to crack down on gun stores that flood our communities with illegal guns and deprive our children of their futures. Read more here.
  • Fight against environmental injustice. Clean air and clean water are basic human rights. But too many children in low-income housing are exposed to lead. African American children are twice as likely to suffer from asthma as white children. Half of our nation’s Latino population lives in areas where the air quality does not meet the EPA’s health standards—and climate change will put vulnerable populations at even greater risk. As president, Hillary will work to reduce air pollution, invest in the removal of toxins like lead, develop greener and more resilient infrastructure, tackle energy poverty, and boost efforts to clean up highly polluted toxic sites.
  • Close the education achievement gap by making sure every child has a world-class education from birth through college. Hillary will double America’s investment in Early Head Start, ensure that every 4-year-old in America has access to high-quality preschool, drive student achievement in K-12 schools, make college affordable, and relieve the crushing burden of student debt.
  • End violence against the transgender community—particularly women of colorRead more here.
  • Revitalize the economy in communities that have been left out and left behind through a “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda” that includes $125 billion in targeted investments to create good-paying jobs, rebuild crumbling infrastructure, and connect housing to opportunity. Read more here.
  • Ensure equal treatment for citizens in Puerto Rico. Hillary is committed to making sure Puerto Ricans have a voice and are treated equally. She believes that Puerto Ricans must be treated equally by Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs that benefit families. She will also work with the people of Puerto Rico and with advocates from all sides to answer the fundamental question of their political status.

(Data taken from Hillary Clinton’s campaign website  )

racial-5The results of racial inequality are devastating and divisive for our nation.  Think of recent incidents just this year:  the police shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and others, the protests, the killings of police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas.  These are the results, the price we pay for the arrogance of thinking that one race is somehow better than others, somehow more deserving of the fruits of our democracy.  Our nation must have a strong leader who will stand firm to ensure that the existing laws are enforced with equality and to bring government together at the federal, state and local levels to end the divisiveness of racial discrimination.

There was a time when the word ‘racism’ was defined in the U.S. only by ill treatment of African-Americans, but that has changed.  We now have notable numbers of Hispanic people, Asian people, and Middle Eastern people, some citizens, others immigrants.  These people are also deserving of equal treatment, yet are more often than not the victims of discrimination and violence.  There was a time when I believed that once such laws as the Civil Rights Acts and Voting Rights Act were enacted, people would step up to the plate, and within a generation or so, discrimination based on race would become a thing of the past.  I am no longer so naive.

Racial equality must be comprised of two components, and laws are only one of those two.  The other must come from the hearts and minds of the human race.  Until we all learn to embrace and celebrate, rather than fear, the differences of different races, cultures, religions and beliefs, we will remain a nation divided.  However, racial justice can and must be mandated by law, else racial tensions, riots and killings will not only continue, but will become more prevalent and more horrific in nature.

racial-6We should not need to talk about racial equality, for in truth, all races are equal.  It is only in the minds of those who would deny truth that there is a difference.  The next president will not, cannot, change the beliefs of people, cannot change the hearts and minds of people, but she can bring about a change in the way the law is administered. She can seek to hold those who educate accountable for providing a more open forum, a more inclusive environment to help future generations be more open-minded. In this, as in so many other critical areas, Hillary Clinton is the better qualified candidate than her opponent who has fed and fanned the flames of racism with his speech and actions.

An excellent article on the topic of racism in the U.S. can be found here at, of all places, Ben & Jerry’s website!  Some good information, plus you can check out their ice cream flavour’s, an added bonus!

ice-cream