It’s a despicable irony that on the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, efforts to roll back great strides in equality are afoot in so many states in this great nation.
The March on Washington in August 1963 led directly to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights of the next couple of years, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That Act helped eliminate the devious and corrupt barriers to voting by Afro-Americans, especially in the Deep South where blatantly racist policies had put in place voting hurdles known as ludicrously arbitrary literacy tests, poll taxes, property-ownership qualifications, “character” tests. Such voting barriers had one and only one rationale: to keep blacks and many poor whites from voting so the racist Jim Crow power structure could be maintained. Those voting restrictions were a shameful undermining of democracy, which is – or ought to be – based on universal suffrage, the right of every citizen to cast votes in elections local, statewide and federal. It’s important to remember women did not gain the right to vote until 1920.
Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court basically gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act, more or less implying so much progress has been made in voting-rights equality it’s not needed anymore. It makes a person wonder if many Supreme Court justices are so uninformed or isolated from American realities they’ve become blind to injustices. Were they not aware of all the voting-suppression efforts, such as in Ohio and Florida, in the last presidential election? They should have known when the cat’s away, the mice will play. And, sure enough, just days after that lamentable court decision, Republicans throughout the country were and are busily erecting barriers to full voter participation. It sounds hollower all the time when they claim they are fighting for election integrity in their insistence on photo IDs, but they have yet to prove any cases of serious voter fraud, and the reason they cannot provide proof is there is no voter fraud to speak of, period. And it’s not just voter ID laws they’re passing. They’re also busy as termites canceling early-voter days, changing polling places and making voting inconvenient if not virtually impossible for three major groups of people: the elderly who are poor, the young (especially college students) and ethnic minorities. Those groups (surprise, surprise) are the very ones who generally tend to vote for Democrats.
Recently, the great Gen. Colin Powell, who is a long-time loyal Republican, made a public statement condemning these voter-suppression efforts. He’s aware of how such efforts will hurt, not enhance, his Republican Party. He also knows such efforts will backfire, just as they did in the last election. In that respect, voter suppressors are cutting off their noses to spite their faces.
If Republicans want to curry favor with the elderly, the young and ethnic minorities, making it ever harder for them to vote is not the way to do it.
Some members of the U.S. Congress are considering reviving the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and putting enforcement teeth back into it once again. Encourage your representatives to do just that because if it isn’t done in time for the next presidential election, these voting-suppression efforts will make a mockery of democracy, and all electoral trust and integrity (the very foundation of our society) will be thrown to the winds.