[Be The Change] The Dangerous Precedent of Georgia’s Voter Suppression Laws

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Since America’s inception, the right to vote has inherently been a focal point of our society – because time and time again it has disenfranchised parts of our society into not having a representative voice in government, and the inability to push for actual change. Even though the original constitution didn’t formally establish voting rights, or ineligibility, we are still at it’s core a country founded by White, Christian Males; thankfully, we have opened up our voting system to finally include minorities, the youth, women and our African American population.

One thing I’ve discovered in the here and now – when there isn’t a law in place to actively progress society, facets of society will use that space to push back even further. That said, with new legislation, came a trove of new pushbacks coupled with a new vitriol; with new change, came those who inherently rejected that change and have done almost anything they can to make it null and void. So, pull up a seat, grab some popcorn – and let’s travel back in time for a little history lesson before we get into what’s currently happening in Georgia.

The U.S. Constitution

After the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment formally abolished slavery. Laying the groundwork for the Civil Rights activism that we’re still in the mix of in 2021, the Fifteenth Amendment is a pivotal point in American society and culture – granting the right to vote to men of any color and was subsequently passed in 1870, As a country founded on the backbones of our African American brothers and sisters, it was tantamount to the evolution of the Reconstruction era of American history once slavery had been eradicated.

Next, finally passed on May 21st, 1919, and then certified on August 26th, 2020 – the Nineteenth Amendment took almost a decade of protesting to pass; and specifically prevents and prohibits the federal and state government from denying the right to vote based on gender. At the time, it brought in approximately 26 million American women to vote in the 1920 presidential election. Unfortunately, this still left the door open to prevent giving minorities the right to vote because by in large – it was an amendment duly applied to White women, which spurred the National Women’s Party to begin their work on the Equal Rights Amendment. However, every time it seemed like we were taking two steps forward as a country, we still had to negotiate with the one step backwards.

In 1962, the Twenty-fourth Amendment was passed – eradicating the poll tax. Yes, there was a tax to vote – and primarily a way to keep the poor, minorities and women from being able to participate in government. Primarily used by Southern States of the former Confederacy, the poll tax was a reaction to the Democratic Party gaining strength and seats in state legislatures. Unfortunately, there were several states who refused to do away with the tax – including Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi and Virginia. It wasn’t until 1966 for the Supreme Court case of Harper versus the Virginia Board of Elections that the poll tax was made formally unconstitutional.

The Politics Of Passing 1964's Civil Rights Act : NPR
Image: NPR

Through it all, the South did an unfortunately impeccable job of upholding Jim Crow laws. Brought to the forefront by the White Southern majority, the Jim Crow era of laws essentially doubled down on racial segregation and racist policies throughout the South on state and local levels. These laws were put in place solely to prevent and dissolve the economic, societal and political gains made by African Americans in the post-slavery era. Slowly, over time, these laws were dismantled. Starting with the 1954 Brown versus Board of Education trial where segregation in schools was formally deemed illegal, Jim Crow laws were formally done away with in the 60’s with the one-two punch of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights act of 1965.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is in itself an incredibly crucial piece of legislation. Not only did it formally outlaw discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin – and now, sexual identity and gender identity; the Civil Rights Act established laws surrounding segregation – forbidding racial segregation in schools or public accommodations, employment discrimination, and most important to our current discussion unequal voter registration requirements. Piggybacking on the Civil Rights Act, as well as the 14th and 15th Amendments, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was created to ensure that racial minorities throughout our country, but especially in the south, would be guaranteed the rights to vote – making literacy tests and the like illegal, and preventing discrimination against language and racial minorities.

Last, but most certainly not least – we fast forward to 1971 – and the Korean conflict, and various Vietnam wars where we’re drafting soldiers into battle yet denying them the right to have a say in government. This brings us to the Twenty-sixty Amendment which prevents states from denying the right to vote for those over 18.


Image: FiveThirtyEight

All combined, these small changes in policy in addition to the monumental amendments of grandiose importance have made it possible for millions of disenfranchised Americans to participate in their own government. However, In the absence of federal legislation concerning elections, it’s up to the individual states to establish their own qualifications; and hence the rub.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is understanding that blue states aren’t vastly more progressive than red states but that red states do more to disenfranchise their communities more than anywhere else. And thanks to current state level legislation, it feels more and more like we’re heading back into eras of voter suppression within predominantly White communities than ever before.

In 2018, NPR penned an article citing that almost half the United States had implemented restrictions on voting – noting that some states require a photo ID, which could be seen as a nuanced version of a poll tax, in addition to both Ohio and Georgia championing what’s considered “use it or lose it” legislation – essentially purging voters from participating in elections simply if they haven’t recently been part of them.

“You’re seeing a national effort by the Republican Party to try to restrict voting rights, and it’s playing out in states all across the country.”

Ari Berman, Author of “Give Us the Ballot”
Since the 2018 gubernatorial election all eyes from the nation and from the citizens of Georgia have been glued to the polls and the subsequent election resuts.

Paired with the 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby County versus Holder which permitted states with long history of discrimination to bypass the federal government in discussion for changes in voting laws, Ari Berman of Mother Jones believes these are part of a bigger strategy by the GOP to restrict voting access. When the 2018 mid-terms were underway, these laws were brought to the forefront of many discussions – especially with Georgia in the mix.

Though there are dozens of states, with hundreds of pieces of legislation on the table – Georgia is the first battleground state to pass such restrictive voting laws in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

There’s a reason that Stacey Abrams is coveted so much by the BIPOC communities of Georgia. There’s a reason that everyone was so keen to get into the kind of ‘good trouble’ that John Lewis was referring to. There’s a reason our country was on pins and needles with the run-off races in Georgia, and why so many of us were championing for, donating to, and elevating Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff for their senate seats.

With their latest litany of legislation, Georgia’s GOP is actively pursuing a campaign against minority voters. As of the other week, Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp signed #SB202 – an almost 100 page bill into effect after being passed in the state house and senate. Some key points to the legislation that was passed. It standardizes early voting on Sundays. This is incredibly important in Georgia primarily due to the vast amount of campaigning, busing and voter turnout that African American Churches bring to the table – making it unnecessarily difficult for the African American Democratic population to participate.

Additionally, this same bill would limit the number of drop box locations in the state, cuts back on the time to request an absentee ballot, pave the way for unlimited voter challenges, require photo ID for mail-in ballots and last but most certainly not least prohibit the community from handing out water, drinks of food to anyone waiting in line to vote. And to boot, the Georgia Democratic Representative Park Cannon – a young, vivacious, openly queer and Black Representative elected just this past year – was arrested…simply for knocking on Kemp’s door because she was concerned about the legislation. Enforcement officials (…currently) are adamant that they arrested Cannon because they feared another January 6th Riot, and arrested Cannon on the charge of “obstructing law enforcement and disruption of the General Assembly”.

At the end of the day, it’s become unfortunately clear who and what the American government, as well as the American police, are propping up – and what they are actively working to dismantle. They are trying to dissolve our greatest strength, our differences and our diversity. As a society, America is a stained glass window built off of thousands of unique pieces, perspectives, and peoples. We each have our individual truths, but the fact of the matter is – we must pull back to see the biggest picture, we must view us as one whole America; not within the fractional window of White, male privileges and pride.

One thing I’d like to leave you with – we are not done enfranchising those who do not have a right to currently vote. Many states have a residency requirement, making it difficult for the homeless population. In almost every state, prisoners – current, or former, do not have the right to vote. Our country will not be free, until we are all free to participate within it; we will not be inclusive, until we include everyone.

“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”

John Lewis
Getting in Good Trouble. Remembering John Lewis - National Association of  Social Workers Michigan

How to Help in Georgia

Donate to the Georgia Democratic Party

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[Be The Change] Resources for a Movement in a Racially Divided Moment

Say THEIR Names!!! by What Would Naomi Do • A podcast on Anchor

“Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Only when we can fully embrace the humanity of all of our brothers and sisters, we will never truly be human. Please take some time to reach out to your African American friends; this is an unprecedented moment in America, and what we’re slowly understanding is this isn’t simply an American problem – thanks to the spread of colonialism, and the continued exploitation of natives from Africa – the idea that Black Rights Matter isn’t local, or national; this is an international, humanitarian issue.

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Over the last 72 hours, we have seen incredible uprising and support from allies around the world – from France and England, to Germany the Netherlands and New Zealand. Now that we’ve risen, we need to see and inspire a re-education to rewrite the current narrative of African Americans. We have to literally go back to school and unlearn the teachings, or how many leaders have pointed out – actually teach children the true history of this country, so they can understand how the backs that built this country finally broke.

I have way too much to say right now about the unlawful militaristic patrol of our communities, improper use of police force by those sent to ‘protect and serve‘, Trump’s pathetic and bewildering stunt yesterday to move protesters for a photo opportunity, the mobilization of a military wing of the government that has duly promised that they would prevent terrorism both foreign and domestic, as well the use of war weapons on civilians that have been banned by the Geneva convention, but let’s put that on the back burner and revisit that later. ‘

As a Black, Jewish woman – I have always felt the weight of the world was against me, but I also recognize that I’ve had incredible privilege due to my education, and the experiences that life awarded me. I “pass“, most people think I’m a different race completely, someone even has asked where my tan comes from (I know…), and know that I most certainly haven’t endured the plight of the Black American – so even I’m trying to grapple with what I can’t comprehend. If that’s my reality, I can only imagine how someone who has barely or never been marginalized is wrapping their heads around this.

So, how do we learn from the past, engage in the present and move forward to assist our Black brothers and sisters? This is a list of media that has affected my personal outlook and understanding on race, I hope you and yours find them beneficial as well.

For the Frontliners:

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ReadingBlackout: 29 Books to Read This Black History Month - Bookish

Books: Just one simple search, and you’ll discover thousands of books by thousands of unique Black voices, telling poignant stories. I could list them all, but here are the ones that have stuck with me all these years:

Bonus books for those wanting to also understand from a mixed race perspective, or just conversations about race in general:


TV Shows and Movies:

  • Insecure (HBO)
  • Snowfall (FX)
  • Mixed-ish / Black-ish (ABC)
  • 13th (Netflix)
  • American Son (Netflix)
  • Do The Right Thing
  • Ghosts of Mississippi (Amazon Prime)
  • Queen and Slim
  • Dear White People (Netflix)

Donate: Put your money where your mouth is with these organizations


Petition: against a demilitarized police force and better training, more empathetic politicians in office and a more inclusive, diverse community:

What are you doing to lift up the Black community right now as it experiences the compounded effects of years of systemic racism? Any resources you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Don’t complain, activate.

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Wednesday Watercooler: Election Edition

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One of the many great things about being an American is the right to vote and the freedom of opinion; yesterday, we got to exercise that right. From President to Senator, and right down to using condoms in pornography and labeling genetically modified foods – there were plenty of important measures and ideals on the ballot.  For some, today is a day of excitement and joy, for others – maybe not so much; but to me, today is two very important things – first, it’s the end of our quadrennial slew of grotesque political advertisements (amen!) and secondly (and of moreimportance to myself) there’s only one month left until my birthday!    More about the later at a later time – let’s get down to political business.

Go-BAMA: 

First, we elect our first black president – next, we reelect our first black president! He delivered one hell of a victory speech last night – and I have to say, Mittens’ concession speech wasn’t half bad either.  Sure, it was a little – erm – short…and potentially something he hadn’t prepared for – but I appreciated lines like the following: I believe in the people of America. And I ran for office because I’m concerned about America. This election is overbut our principles endure.

Puff, Puff, Passed:

Last night in a historic vote, Colorado and Washington both passed laws yesterday that  tax and legalize the use of marijuana and Massachusets voted to become the 18th state to okay it’s medical use; Arkansas’  ballot measure, not surprisingly – but unfortunately, did not pass.

Legalize Love:

Marijuana laws weren’t the only sign of progress on the ballot last night. Three states – Washington, Maryland and Maine – voted to approve same sex marriage, and Minnesotans voted against a same-sex marriage ban.  This brings the number of states that allow same sex marriage up to 9almost 20% of the union for you math people; America, fuck yeah!

We’re #51!:

If Puerto Rico and the United States had a Facebook relationship status, last night’s vote pushed it from “It’s Complicated” to “In a Relationship.”  Last night, Puerto Ricans voted on a two part referendum to evolve it’s 114 year relationship with the USA and become the 51’st state. Before the election, President Obama gave the nod that he would support this decision in case of a clear majority.  With a 61% vote for statehood, 33% vote for sovereignty and a mediocre 5% vote for independence it looks like we should start planning for a revised American flag.