VoteForABetterFuture1

An old enemy has been resurrected; a dark specter that looms over this year’s General Election, threatening the rights of voters of color across the country. 

Poll taxes, literacy tests and other tools of direct voter suppression were legally buried along with de jure segregation 50 years ago. But conservative regimes have found ways to resurrect those laws, unleashing a swathe of new policies with an old purpose: suppressing the vote of African-American and other non-White voters.

This neo-Jim Crow reemerged in 2000 in Florida when state officials purged thousands of eligible voters from the voter rolls, 88 percent of them African-American, leading to one of the narrowest victories in presidential election history, with Republican candidate George W. Bush prevailing over Democrat Al Gore.

And, it has gained new strength since the 2010 midterm election ushered in new majority-Republican state legislatures and governors. Since those elections, reports the Brennan Center for Justice, new voting restrictions are slated to be in place in 22 states.

The marquee and most divisive issue in this slate of restrictions has been laws that require voters to present photo identification before voting.

On Oct. 18, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to allow Texas to use its new voter ID law in the November election, unleashing what many have called the most restrictive voter ID law in the country.

Justice Ruth Ginsburg, in a scathing six-page dissent, called the measure a “purposefully discriminatory law” and “an unconstitutional poll tax” that would disenfranchise more than 600,000 eligible voters, many of them non-White.

Minorities, the poor, students and the disabled—people who tend to vote Democrat—are now having to pay this “poll tax” in several states. A total of 13 states passed more restrictive voter ID laws between 2011 and 2014, 11 of which are slated to be in effect in 2014.

And the list of voter suppression tactics grows longer:

  • Voter purges, in states like Florida, almost always eliminate mostly-minority voters;
  • Nine states have laws that make it harder for citizens to register to vote;
  • Four have prohibited voter registration drives by community groups—Blacks and Hispanics historically register through these types of drives at twice the rate as Whites;
  • Three states passed laws requiring proof of citizenship before a voter can register;
  • North Carolina and Ohio eliminated the popular same-day registration,

and the list goes on.

In eight states, measures have been enacted that slash early voting days and hours. Since early voting, particularly at night and on weekends, are disproportionately used by working-class African Americans these changes will hurt them most.

The June 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Shelby v. Holder, which thwarted the Department of Justice from blocking voter suppression laws under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, further opened up the floodgates for all types of voter discrimination to take place.

Add Shelby to previous Supreme Court decisions that made it easier for corporations to influence elections and you get the picture of a democracy up against the wall.

The situation seems grim, but Americans, everywhere, can turn back the tide—through the power of the ballot box.

Mid-term elections most-closely determine the everyday lives of Americans, as they often decide who sits in governors’ mansions, state legislatures, congressional seats, mayor’s offices, other local public offices, and a wide variety of referenda.

Too often, however, voters don’t turn out to vote during the mid-terms, putting their fates into the hands of others—the plethora of laws that now threaten to abridge the right to vote is an example of the result.

So, this Nov. 4—and before, where available—get out and vote.

Vote, to have a say in the policies that affect your lives;

Vote, to determine the direction of your neighborhood, city and state; and

Vote, to save the American democracy.