Welcome Back, Jim Crow

New laws in dozens of states could take out Barack Obama this fall.

Around noon on a windy fall Sunday, the motorcade began forming. Dozens of black people, ages 5 to 85, poured from the three-story New Covenant Baptist Church and into a coughing 20-year-old bus, a cramped church van and their cars.

The caravan snaked down Rio Grande Avenue, turned onto Kaley Street and passed beat-up buildings and old houses downtown. Ten minutes later, it stopped at the county election supervisor's office, where 150 church members filed inside to cast their ballots, all for Barack Obama.

"It was like a crusade," remembers Randolph Bracy, a charismatic, athletic 67-year-old minister. "There was great pride. We were going to vote for the first African-American president."

Justin Renteria

That was "Souls to the Polls" 2008 in Orlando. It can't happen this year.

It's illegal.

In a brazen attempt to steal this fall's election, Florida's Republican lawmakers have outlawed voting on Sunday, a tradition in black communities. Indeed, across the United States, from Montana to Maine, Texas to Tennessee, 41 states have recently passed or introduced laws to restrict voter registration and early voting, and to otherwise generally limit suffrage.

It's the greatest show of racially fueled political chicanery since turn-of-the-century laws banned scores of black people from casting ballots. More than 5 million voters — largely minority — could be kept from the polls, according to New York University's Brennan Center for Justice.

"When Jim Crow was passed, [segregationists] said because of this plan, the darkie will be eliminated as a factor in elections in five years," says Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP's national president and CEO. "We beat that. But now these state governments are doing the same thing, disenfranchising entire blocks of black and Hispanic voters."

For decades, Southern states barred black people from voting, through white supremacist tricks such as literacy tests. That practice mostly ended in 1965, after America watched cops gassing and clubbing voting-rights demonstrators marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. The law, said then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, was "a turning point in man's unending search for freedom."

In the years that followed, there were more attempts to cheat minorities at the polls. One was a law in many states that blocked felons from voting and made it difficult to get reinstated. Largely because of zero tolerance for drug crimes, this measure affected one in 12 black men.

A new scam started in Arizona in 2004, when voters approved a law to require not only an ID to cast a ballot but also proof of citizenship to register. The measure has been plodding through the courts ever since, and the citizenship provision was recently ditched. But one California federal judge who heard the case on appeal, Harry Pregerson, noted that "intimidation keeps Latino voters away from the polls."

In 2006, Missouri required voters to show a state or federal ID at the polls. It sounded logical. But supporters failed to emphasize that a quarter of blacks and almost as many Latinos lack this documentation. "The absurdity of these rules was pretty clear," says Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. "A Supreme Court judge said he was old and had let his license expire. Could he vote? And we had a member of Congress who couldn't use his congressional ID to vote."

The Missouri Supreme Court threw out that measure, but two other states — Indiana and Georgia — passed their own ID requirements that the U.S. Supreme Court has since rubber-stamped.

These earlier attacks pale in comparison to last year's blitzkrieg, when Republicans — who had taken control of 57 state House and Senate chambers in 2010 — began to contemplate this fall's presidential election. They had seen minority voters turn out en masse to vote for Obama and were determined to turn the tide.

In just the past 18 months, 13 states have passed laws that require voters to show ID. In several of those locales, including Minnesota, the governor vetoed the bills, but most of the others will likely take effect before this fall's election.

In Texas, which is under federal scrutiny because of past attempts to dupe minorities, the U.S. Department of Justice blocked the measure. Twenty percent of the state's voters are Latino — and are far more likely to lack photo IDs, the feds found. The law, says Camila Gallardo, national spokeswoman for the Latino rights organization La Raza, was "an affront to everyone. They are attacking the core of our democracy, which is open participation."

Gallardo was born in Santa Clara, California, to a Cuban-American family. She points out that her grandmother, who emigrated from the island long ago, never needed a driver's license or bothered with a passport, but has been allowed to vote in that state because she is a citizen. California is one of the few states that have stayed clear of the great anti-minority backlash.

On the other side of the nation, however, Florida has moved to the top of the class when it comes to discrimination. Federal courts are considering the Republican leadership's attempts to not only outlaw Sunday voting but also severely limit voter registration.

The laws being challenged, for instance, require anyone who helps voters sign up with the state to submit all registration documents within 48 hours. Last week, a federal judge in Tallahassee blocked some parts of the law, but let others — such as the prohibition on Sunday voting — stand. To date, the registration requirements have proven so difficult to meet that even groups such as the Boy Scouts of America have given up on registering voters this year.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
6 comments
thefncrow
thefncrow

Whoever told you that you must carry ID lied to you. There is absolutely no requirement to carry ID. You have to carry a driver's license if you're operating a motor vehicle, and you're required to identify yourself to police if they stop you (note that I said you're required to identify, not that you're required to present identification), but there is absolutely no requirement to carry ID just for walking around.

Timetomoveon
Timetomoveon

Standards and expecting people to have their shit together = racism if like this newspaper and it's writers you think that blacks and hispanics are helpless and stupid. The truth is that liberal paternalism is racism.

Timetomoveon
Timetomoveon

So if you can't vote on Sunday, it's racism? Because black people can only vote on Sunday? Ok. Got it. Why can't liberals do something to actually help all these people who don't have an ID rather than exploiting them? Wouldn't it be more helpful to these minorities you're so concerned about to actually have an ID? Instead of massive voter registration drives trying to get every homeless person and criminal to register to vote like a scene from Gangs of New York-- why not have a "WE'RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING REAL AND HELP YOU GET YOUR ID" drive? You know because then they could join the rest of our civilization and do things like: Drive without breaking the law. Cash a check without going to some shady check cashing place that takes a huge cut. Get their utilities turned on. And various other kind of necessary activities in life today, all of which I would say are more important to most people than casting a vote. Are these mythical identificationless minorities you are supposedly so concerned over-- actually going to vote anyway?

Mypiece
Mypiece

You know, given the true hardships that those who lived in the Jim Crow era had to cope with... today's so called community leaders paint their followers as candy a**ed people. Cope with the changes in the process like we ALL have to do, because until these laws specifically say something along the lines that such and such racial group can't vote, you're going to get very little sympathy. Additionally, articles like this dribble do you no justice cause it turns folks such as myself against you. Now, if the intention of this article and all the other like minded reporting is to make all these issues divisive, they're doing a fantastic job.

Mypiece
Mypiece

Wow, I have a fair amount I don't like about the Republicans, however my gripe is with the whole two party system and all the zealots that support it. *cough* such as yourself.... Your rant is just that. There is no logical discussion or any progression of even a partial discussion. Just... blah, blah, 'I hate them', blah, blah, 'they want to destroy us all', blah, blah.... Come on people, make some sense and let's argue the assumptions these articles give, cause they hardly ever given any real facts.

R U Serious
R U Serious

When I turned 18 I was told that by law I had to carry state issued I.D. drivers licence or a state I.D. card. I got a ticket for failure to I.D. when I was 20. So I have to have an I.D. to walk around downtown Dallas, but It's discrimination to ask for an I.D. to vote?

 
Loading...