By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
syoes@afro.com

According to the Washington Post, the 45th President of the United States has told more than 20,000 lies as his first term comes to a close.

But, perhaps the most insidious and damaging ongoing series of lies being injected into the public discourse by Donald Trump is his insistence, with absolutely no evidence that the process of mail-in voting is rife with fraud.

Given the fact that the United States continues to be overwhelmed with a global pandemic, which has already taken the lives of more than 160,000 Americans and infected more than five million others, the traditional method of waiting in long lines to crowd into gymnasiums and other gathering spaces around the country to cast a vote could literally imperil lives. Further, the coronavirus pandemic has killed more people of color disproportionately than any other demographic group in America. So, for Black people specifically the ability to vote by mail could be a matter of sickness or health, life or death.

For tens of millions the only viable, safe alternative is to cast a vote by mail, something that has been done millions of times already in 2020 with virtually no evidence of fraud or malfeasance. In fact, there are five states that use a vote-by-mail system only: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington and have been doing so for years with virtually no issues.

Yet, the man that sits in the White House, the President of the United States, seems determined to undermine the integrity of the upcoming U.S. Presidential Election. Trump’s false assertions about the mail-in voting process, as well as his dubious machinations connected to his selection of Trump mega donor, Louis DeJoy as U.S. Postmaster General, (DeJoy has been accused of systematically slowing the process of delivering mail), could amount to the most grievous attempt at voter suppression in the country’s history.

It is not hyperbole to conclude the voting rights of millions of Americans are being attacked in real time by the President of the United States.

It is a scenario Black Americans are all too familiar with.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965, was signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson, for the specific purpose of removing legal barriers at the state and local levels that prohibited Black Americans mostly in the South from exercising their right to the franchise afforded them by the 15th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Before passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Black people in the South had to guess how many jelly beans were in a jar in order to cast a vote, or they had to pass literacy tests that Whites were not subject to, or pay poll taxes. Perhaps, more importantly the VRA of 1965 provided federal law enforcement protection for Black voters to cast ballots in the South. With the enactment of the VRA of 1965, voter registration for Blacks in the South exploded and what  would follow would be a massive shift in Southern electoral politics. The VRA of 1965 is considered one of the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in the country’s history.

But, almost from the beginning the law that insured the most disenfranchised the right to vote was under attack. Redistricting was a tactic used widely in the South and the North to water down the voting power of Black people.

There have been a phalanx of legal challenges to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but a near fatal blow to the landmark legislation came from the Supreme Court in 2013. The New York Times wrote the following after that Supreme Court decision:

“The Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.

The court divided along ideological lines, and the two sides drew sharply different lessons from the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the nation’s progress in rooting out racial discrimination in voting. At the core of the disagreement was whether racial minorities continued to face barriers to voting in states with a history of discrimination.”

And in 2020, the right to vote, especially for people of color faces the seething challenge of Donald John Trump.

Perhaps, now more than ever with so much on the line as the nation approaches November 3, there should be a renewed focus on protecting voting rights for all Americans.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor