Voter Suppression: Then and Now

Last year as the world was gripped against our battle with Covid-19, America had been preparing for a different type of fight: the 2020 Presidential election. It had been an election season that started almost as soon as Former President Trump won in 2016. America and the world found themselves in a place that no one could quite understand. A political outsider who based his campaign on fear-mongering and lies had just become the leader of the “free world”. The 2020 election turned out to be one for the record books, not just in terms of voter turnout but also in terms of the outcome. Democrats would go on to win the presidency, the house, and the senate. Many key battleground states would be lost by the Republicans as people of color, predominately Black people helped to turn the tide. It was a victory for millions of people as well as a defeat for millions more. 

            As we let the tide of this past election season wash over us, many states are preparing for the future. There are currently 253 voter-suppression bills currently under-consideration in 43 states. Make no mistake, this is a coordinated attack on voters’ rights by Republicans. They understand the power that the people hold, and will do anything to hold on to that power themselves. But to understand modern-day voter suppression, we must first take a step back in time. 

People exercising their right to protest ahead of the 2020 election

            After the Civil War ended, America entered into a period known as Reconstruction. The North continued to govern the South for about 12 years, and during this time Black people in America flourished. No longer, slaves but free people they could start businesses, run for office, and begin to feel as though they were citizen in the country they had built with their blood, sweat, and tears. Three amendments were passed, with the 14thamendment giving Blacks equal protection under the law and the 15thamendment providing voting rights. But this did not mean that Black people could automatically start voting; Congress did not start enforcing the 15thamendment and Texas didn’t actual ratify the 15thamendment until 1997. 

            To restrict voting rights for Blacks, several measures were enacted such as poll taxes and literacy tests. Gerrymandering which is the division of arranging territories into election districts to allow one political party an advantage, was and is also a tool used to keep Blacks from hitting the polls. And even though poll taxes and literacy tests have been deemed unconstitutional, that hasn’t stopped members of Congress from finding new ways to discourage voters of color from exercising their constitutional right to vote. 

            In Georgia where there was a historic win for Democrats, the house passed restrictions to limit voting on Sunday, require identification for absentee voting, and to decrease the use of ballot drop boxes. The Georgia Senate passed a bill that limits no excuse absentee voting and requires voter ID. In the 253 bills currently being introduced, these laws would make voter ID rules stricter, end automatic voter registration, expand voter roll purges, and limit absentee and mail-in voting. These laws will disproportionately affect communities of color. After the historic election of 2020, Republicans are trying everything in their power to make sure that this never happens again. Instead of focusing on bringing our country and economy back from Covid-19, we find the same old playbook has been updated for a modern age. 

            It’s common knowledge, that voter turnout decreases during the mid-term election. By passing these bills now, they are hoping that less people will be knowledgeable about these new rules in the next general election. We must not lose heart and continue to hold our elected officials responsible. Call your state representatives, and ask them to support the ‘For the People Act’ and the ‘John Lewis Voting Rights Act’ to make sure that our rights are protected for all people. 

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