A friend of mine, who like many of us is observing Repugnantthug’s various attempts to block people of color from voting in the November 6 midterm elections, recently wrote on his Facebook page, “In case you hadn’t noticed, we are in the Civil Rights Movement all over again!”
One of the means to equality and power the racists of the previous Movement era tried to take from us was our right to vote. It’s happening again today, and not just to Black people.
In North Dakota, a lower court ruled that only residents with street addresses and voter IDs listing their addresses could vote in state elections. The ruling, in effect, disproportionately disenfranchises thousands of Native Americans in the state, many of whom are on reservations where they have only post office box numbers, not street addresses, or street names.
Although the voter ID law permits state residents to use utility bills or paycheck stubs as alternative identification at the polls, the high rates of homelessness and unemployment among the state’s Native Americans doesn’t solve the problem.
The Native American Rights Fund, a civil rights group, appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, where alleged high school rapist Brett Kavanaugh, who has never met a civil or women’s rights protection he liked, had recently been sworn in as a justice. To no one’s surprise, the high court, now dominated by right-wingers, upheld the lower court rule on October 9, denying the Fund’s emergency application to stop North Dakota’s discriminating voting law.
The roots of the law are in the election of North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp in 2012. That’s when the state government passed the voter ID law. Senator Heitkamp is the only Democrat from the state to hold a national office. The Native American vote was significantly instrumental in her victory.
This year she has to defend her place in the Senate against Repugnantthug candidate Kevin Cramer, who is apparently the leading candidate in the run-up to the midterms. Senator Heitkamp was one of the Democrats who voted against confirming Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, a major talking point for North Dakota Repugnantthugs pushing their conservative base to vote against her in record numbers.
A recent study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic Magazine listed the various underhandedly creative ways Black and Latino voters are being prevented from voting: Moving the location of polling places in communities of color at the last minute. Closing polling places early, making it certain that Black and Latino voters who can’t leave their jobs early to vote won’t arrive before polls close. Not mailing out notices to them that they will have to re-register because they moved out of their previous voting districts. “Purging” voters rolls of the names of voters of color, and not informing them.
Currently all eyes are on the state of Georgia, which could get its first Black and first female governor if Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams wins the election on November 6. But Georgia, part of the Old Confederacy of Southern states that hasn’t quite gotten over losing the Civil War and their “right” to enslave Black folks, is having none of it.
He claims there are discrepancies in the paperwork. He also happens to be Georgia’s Secretary of State, which oversees voting and election matters. What a coincidence, huh? Somebody should have reminded him about conflict of interest, and how he should have resigned from his post in order to run for governor.
Earlier this week, in Georgia — AGAIN! — a bus from a community center in Louisville that was set to transport Black seniors to vote, was prevented from leaving. The passengers were ordered off the bus. The trip was sponsored by a group called Black Votes Matter, which owns the bus (pictured above). Someone in a car driving past the bus reportedly phoned the county commissioner’s office to complain of impropriety (“Voting Vickie”? There are such cute nicknames for whites who call law enforcement because we are “Existing While Black!”) The county administrator’s office issued a statement which said the community center does not allow “political events” to be conducted during its regular operating hours. The statement said center operators felt “uncomfortable” allowing seniors to leave the facility with an “unknown” entity. These are grown folks. Why couldn’t they go where they wanted?
During the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (“Snick”), whose brave twenty-something Black and white college students who went South to register Black people to vote, faced death and intimidation by the resident racists for their efforts. But they persisted, shoring up their courage through their song and slogan, “We’ll never turn back.” We shouldn’t let today’s racists turn us back, either. Let’s out-trick the tricksters and vote anyway. It’s what our ancestors, and those civil rights stalwarts who went before us, would have wanted.