The De-Humanization of Free and Fair Elections

Republican State Legislators Are Twisting Them

America has a critical illness that has nothing to do with Covid 19. The symptoms are the attempts by states in significant sectors of the country to rewrite election laws in detriment to black and brown voters. Leading the pack is the Georgia state legislature,

What makes this organized effort particularly ironic is the renewed threat it poses to America’s already tarnished democratic image. Reactionary lawmakers in state capitals such as Atlanta, Des Moines and Phoenix seem to think that nobody is looking. But the entire world is following this latest assault on the Americans’ vaunted democracy.

The issue is aggravated by their unique ability to peddle their inhumanity it as a curious brand of democracy. Its crowning achievement, after centuries of culturation under a sinister bell jar filled with hate, lies, economic interests, and religious voodoo, is the Georgia Republican Party. But Georgia is just the poster girl. The campaign extends farther afield.

The Brennan Center for Justice’s “Voting Laws Roundup: February 2021” states:

In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced well over four times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to roughly this time last year. Thirty-three states have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 restrictive bills this year (as compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020). –

Ninety-Eight Pages of Restrictive Voting Regulations

According to Business Insider, President Biden and a majority of Democrats have come down firmly against the Georgia Republicans’ Election Integrity Act 2021, the new 98-page collection of voting laws, thinly disguised but essentially designed to tilt Georgia’s electoral regulations in favor of white voters. Provisions of the new laws range from the ridiculous to the sublime:

* the requirement of a photo ID

* limitations on absentee voting by mail

* new powers to intervene in county election offices and remove and replace election officials

* and, wierdest of all, the prohibition of providing food or drink to anyone standing in the voting line. You cannot take a drink of water to your grandmother who has been waiting in line for hours. Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta, had the longest voting lines in the country in 2020. elaborates on other provisions of the bill.

* It permits Georgia citizens to file any number of challenges to the eligibility of particular voters, thereby weaponizing the state’s most reactionary citizens.

* It imposes new limitations on ballot drop boxes that effectively ban their widespread deployment outside of a governor-declared emergency. It is precisely the governor who sponsors this bill.

* It applies voter ID laws to mail-in ballots by requiring voters to submit their driver’s license or state ID number as part of their vote-by-mail application. This subjects voters without those documents to an additional ID process.

* It creates a “fraud hotline” that allows people to file anonymous complaints regarding alleged fraudulent voting, again pandering to and recruiting the reactionary base. The anonymity provision is particularly perverted.

Less anecdotical but perhaps more critical are aspects of the new law that regulate how voting rules are implemented, handing power to the Republicans who control the state legislature. Those powers permit them to replace personnel considered to be “performing poorly.”

Such are the intricate barriers to free and fair elections today in the State of Georgia.

Life Under the Toxic Bell Jar

Democrats affirm that these new regulations and their implantation by Georgia Republicans are prejudicial to African Americans in the state. President Joe Biden is reported by as saying, “This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century… It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act.” He told reporters the Georgia law is an “atrocity” and the Justice Department is looking into it. Republicans say that the contrary is true, that the new law guarantees more honest elections.

The southern racists’ war against the voting rights of people of color has been constant since immediately after the American Civil War. The Black Codes enacted then all over the south were restrictive laws designed to limit the freedom of African Americans and ensure their availability as a cheap labor force after slavery was abolished by President Lincoln. His emancipation proclamation had liberated some four million slaves in the American south, but left the question of the freed blacks’ status in southern society somewhat ambiguous. Though the Black Codes were all repealed in 1866 when Reconstruction began, in a short time the black people of the south were re-enslaved under a set of different laws and pretexts which came to be known as Jim Crow laws. Southern recalcitrance assured success of the repression and the onset of 144 years (and counting) of dogged southern resistance to racial equality.

The Nomenclature of Slavery

After the failure of Reconstruction in 1877, and the removal of black men from political office, the southern states doubled down on a series of laws intended to circumscribe the lives of African Americans.  Harsh contract laws penalized anyone attempting to leave a job before an advance had been worked off. So-called “Pig Laws” unduly penalized poor African Americans for crimes such as stealing a chicken, and vagrancy statutes made it a crime to be unemployed.  Misdemeanors were treated as felonies, with harsh sentences and fines. Once offenders were jailed they could not escape even when their prison term was up because they couldn’t pay their fines, thus remaining victims of different forms of indentured servitude. The so-called Pig Laws stayed on the books for decades, and were expanded with even more discriminatory provisions during the Jim Crow era. This lasted until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The story of this period is told eloquently in the moving hour-and-a-half PBS documentary, Slavery by Another Name, available free on YouTube.

Despite not having achieved their goal of establishing themselves as the superior race in the American south, the white southern racists broke new ground in man’s inhumanity to man. In doing so they highlighted the most nightmarish aspects of the American Dream. In only one place were they publicly admired. In the 1930s, when Hitler and his Nazi ghouls were seeking models to emulate in creating their state racism policies, they turned to the United States and found inspiration, not only in the treatment of African Americans in the south, but other non-white people all across the country. The Asians who were brought to the western US in the 1850s to work in mining and railroad construction were considered little more than subhuman coolies, eminently expendable. Today’s violence against them is not a novelty. Washington Post staff writer, Gillian Brockell, writes in her recent article, “The long, ugly history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.:”

And in 1854, the California Supreme Court reinforced racism against Asian immigrants in People v. Hall, ruling that people of Asian descent could not testify against a White person in court, virtually guaranteeing that Whites could escape punishment for anti-Asian violence. In this case, it was murder: George Hall shot and killed Chinese immigrant Ling Sing, and the testimony of witnesses was rejected because they were also Asian.

The Washington Post, March 18, 2021

The High Price of American Racism

The tragic by-product of all this race-based hate and unfairness is a fact that glows in the American darkness like a diabolical beacon: racism has always been and remains the most palpable negation of American greatness. There it is, for anyone who has eyes to see. The recently-enacted voter suppression laws in Georgia and other states only serve to reaffirm the ongoing horror. What’s the best counter that Republicans, both south and north, can come up with after 400 years of race-based homicidal injustice? “Let’s talk about the Chinese Uighur Muslims.” What they choose not to talk about are the hundreds of thousands of Muslims erradicated by American bombs since the launch of the Gulf War in 1990.

What Humanity Is This?

The new racist voting laws, coupled with the existing penal system which permits prisons to exploit inmates economically, only serve to revive America’s least noble tradition. What claims to humanity can apply to a group of persons that works fervently to segregate, marginalize and imprison people of other races, annulling their very lives ands wellbeing? That is the quintessential American question that civilized citizens of countries around the world have been asking themselves for centuries. This latest outbreak of insidious American voter suppression legislation arrived unexpectedly, which is not to say that it took anyone by surprise.

Mike Booth is a Spain-based freelance journalist.