FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Suppressing the Vote

In Selma, Ala., on Sunday, I joined thousands of citizens marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, marking the 47th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the 1965 march and police riot that helped spark the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

The march was not a memory to the past, but a protest of the present. In Alabama, conservatives are moving once more to suppress the vote, part of a concerted effort across the country to make it harder for the poor, the elderly and minorities to vote.

Alabama’s voter ID law will require citizens to present photo identification at the polls. An Alabama immigration law requires police to determine citizenship status during traffic stops, essentially exposing Latino citizens and non-citizens to constant harassment.

Photo ID laws have been introduced or passed in at least 15 states. They discriminate against those who don’t have driver’s licenses — disproportionately poor, elderly and minorities. Nationally they could disenfranchise about 5 million voters. Several states are also pushing legislation to restrict voter registration and to limit early voting.

The current drive is the greatest insult to the Voting Rights Act since it was passed 47 years ago.

Republicans argue that the voting laws are needed to counter fraudulent voting. But they have produced zero evidence of organized efforts to tip elections with fraudulent voters. The laws, as noted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the march organizers, are a “solution looking for a problem.”

On Bloody Sunday 47 years ago, Americans saw nonviolent African-American protesters brutalized in a police riot. The nation’s conscience was touched and Washington responded, as President Johnson pushed through the Voting Rights Act.

Protests against current efforts to suppress the vote have only just begun. But they will build — and they will once more pose a moral challenge to America.

Will Americans reward a party that is systematically seeking to make it harder to vote? Will they accept routine harassment of minorities because of their fears about immigration? Will the politics of division once more be effective?

In the old South, whites feared that they would suffer with the end of segregation. Their privileges would be reduced; their economy would be upended. In fact, the civil rights movement’s victories opened the South to a new prosperity. Investment flowed in. Companies that would have not gone into a segregated South moved to Atlanta and other cities.

It turned out that to hold African Americans in a ditch, whites had to stay down there with them. The end of segregation, the passage of voting rights, created new opportunity for all.

But the old South did not die. The modern Republican Party was built on its infamous Southern strategy, appealing to whites in reaction to the passage of the civil rights laws. Now that strategy, which alienated African-American voters, seems to be replaying itself in the party’s harsh rhetoric and actions about the new wave of immigrants. The result may well alienate Latino and Asian-American voters.

Worse, it means that one of America’s two major parties is increasingly devoted to finding ways to limit the vote rather than expand it. In fact, what we ought to have is a competition on how to ensure that every citizen can cast his or her vote easily. Automatic registration on birth, early voting, extended voting days, polls that are open on weekends and before and after work days — we should be having a competition on how to increase the vote, not on how to suppress it.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson is founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail