Defying Voter Suppression

Long Lines 2

 

 

 

My heart sang and my spirit soared when, on Super Tuesday, the media covered stories about the long lines at polling places.

It’s called voter suppression, and black people have had to deal with it for some time. In the absence of poll taxes, literacy tests, and things like reciting the Constitution from memory and/or being asked how many jelly beans are in a huge jar, more sophisticated methods of voter suppression have become more and more common.

Voting officials say – and have always said – that long lines “are due to a number of factors,” but part of the reason for the long lines is the lack of working voting machines or too few machines for the number of people expected to vote.

Rep. Stacey Abrams, who ran for governor of Georgia, points the ways that voter suppression is practiced in this country. Her video, “Fair Fight,” does an excellent job of showing all of the tactics used in Georgia – and presumably in other states – to keep people from voting. (https://www.npr.org/2020/02/20/807665148/stacey-abrams-spearheads-campaign-against-voter-suppression) (https://www.bravenewfilms.org/suppressed)

Among the tactics highlighted are long lines, most of which are found in black and brown neighborhoods. People in those neighborhoods have typically stood in line for hours, sometimes for so long that they give up. They have to go home to get medicine or leave to pick up children, or …go to work, because if they miss a day of work they do not get paid.

In addition, with the closing of polling places, the long lines become even more problematic, because people are forced to travel increased distances, out of their neighborhoods, making them have to take into consideration to and from the voting booths in addition to trying to get their children to daycare and then get themselves to work.

But black and brown people are tired of being walked over and being denied the right to vote by such tactics. A friend of mine wrote that black people are “used” to this type of voter suppression, and are advised to take folding chairs, sunscreen, pack lunches and their medicine, and whatever else they need to do in order to cast their ballots. A man who works two jobs who on Tuesday stood in line for 7 hours, said he wasn’t going to leave, in spite of the long wait. (https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/politics/election-2020/2020/03/04/362610/its-worth-it-the-last-person-in-line-at-tsu-waited-six-hours-to-vote-on-super-tuesday/) (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/03/04/super-tuesday-texas-man-waits-six-hours-vote/4952084002/)

The reports that long lines were experienced in white neighborhoods are significant; whenever black and brown people experience a shortcoming of democracy, the reaction of the public is generally lukewarm, but when white people experience the same situation, there is considerable more outcry. Such was the case, it seems, on Tuesday. (https://www.propublica.org/article/these-voters-had-to-wait-for-hours-it-felt-like-a-type-of-disenfranchisement)

The efforts to keep people who typically vote Democratic are only going to increase. Studies have shown that people classified as “minority,” be that in reference to gender, race, sexual orientation, economic status, and more, tend to vote Democratic. Efforts are made to keep them out of the process, in defiance of the 15th Amendment, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Lawmakers who say that this a country of the rule of law fail to mention that what they mean is that “the law” matters as long as it does not threaten their power. In the quest for achieving or keeping power, “the law” means little.

But that reality should not stop black and brown people, and others who vote Democratic, to step up their defiance of voter suppression tactics. It’s almost like people have to have a “voting preparedness” regiment set up, as a country should have an “emergency preparedness” program in place to deal with unexpected disasters. Being prepared is a smart move, something necessary, it seems, to fight amoral, immoral, and unjust tactics to keep people from voting.

So, we in our neighborhoods should talk about what we may face and get ready, because all elections matter, but the fall elections matter perhaps more than they have in a while. On the local and national level, it will be voters who protect the rights and interests of people who too many people seem not to care about.

A candid observation …

 

What America Values

At first, it didn’t hit me.

It was the holiday season; Christmas was fast approaching, and retailers wanted profits.

So, three or four days before Christmas, some of them announced that they would keep their doors open, extend their hours, to accommodate shoppers. Kohl’s would be open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Macy’s would be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Stores opened on Thanksgiving to give shoppers a head start.

They wanted to be sure to please their patrons. On the surface, if one was a shopper, that seemed like a nice gesture.

But then it hit me. States all over this nation sought to restrict the days and hours during the day that people could vote in the mid-term elections in 2014.

We are important enough, in other words, to accommodate when business wants our money, but we are not important enough to accommodate when we try to exercise the right we have as Americas to vote.

For shopping, there is some understanding that people might find it hard to get to the stores because of their busy schedules.

For voting, no such understanding is given. The sentiment is, or seems to be, “if you want to vote, you will find a way to get there in these proscribed hours and on these proscribed days.”

The movie Selma is released tomorrow. The fight in Selma was about the fight to get the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed …but since then, there has been serious, organized opposition to that law, which has resulted in the slow dismantling of all that that law made possible.

Americans are free to spend their money; this nation will help Americans spend their money, but this nation will NOT help people exercise their right to vote.

Shop until you drop …but go sit down somewhere and don’t complain if you can’t get to the polls on the limited days and times which the government has made possible.

How come some Americans don’t see anything wrong with this picture? How come some …or, I might say, many …Americans scoff at the notion that some people really do need more days and times to vote than others? How come it’s OK to go overboard to get people to spend their money, but not OK to provide more days and times to vote?

All of the voter suppression we have seen is the result of the vast numbers of African-Americans and other marginalized groups having been able to vote in 2008 and 2012. The lives of the marginalized were considered and honored; people who had never voted before finally got the opportunity.

It was glorious. It was democracy, right? It was evidence that “all men are created equal.”  It was about a level playing field. Parity. Equity. Democracy exercised generations after Jefferson et al drew up our Constitution.

But the glory has faded and continues to do so. The powers that be didn’t like marginalized people showing up en masse, causing this country to lean toward true democracy. So, they have worked to dismantle nearly all of the gains made in the Civil Rights movement …while simultaneously making it easier for people to shop using money they do not have so that the rich can get richer and the marginalized can remain marginalized.

At first, it went past me. I missed it. It didn’t hit me.

But I get it now, and it makes me sigh.

Democracy is an ideal and an idea that looks good on paper.

But when the task of making and maintaining democracy is thrown to the people, it might as well be thrown to the wolves.

People don’t want democracy. They want power and money and will do anything they must to obtain it.

I get it now …and I am not impressed. My concept of democracy, where “the least of these” are considered as human and are treated as such, is not real. It never has been.

A candid observation …