On the Rise in Southern Politics

By Jeff Thomas

With the coming midterm elections, the rise of voter suppression tactics is astonishing.  Louisiana has some of the most restrictive voter laws requiring every voter to present a state issued photo id.  Without a driver’s license or state ID a Louisiana citizen is often denied the right to vote.  And Louisiana is not alone as 29 states in the past few years have passed these more restrictive laws that mainly affect low income, people of color and senior citizens.  The states that have passed these laws have Republican governors and these laws affect people who overwhelmingly vote Democratic.

Curiously, voter fraud is unusual and rarely done on a large scale.  Without more stringent laws, states had small amounts of voter fraud, yet these states implemented these restrictive laws solely to suppress the Democratic vote.  The U.S. Justice Department reports no episodes of coordinated voter fraud in the last 20 years, yet these states have unabashedly attempted to abridge the right of Americans to vote.  This is a concerted effort to lower the number of eligible voters who can vote and prevent new voters from ever voting.  Previously, states used poll taxes, intimidation and impossible to pass tests as ways to prevent poor people from voting.

This illegal and un-American practice is a national disgrace and is growing while at the same time moving the country backward.  A democracy is based upon the concept of one person one vote.  Voting in every state in America should be easy, fair, and free.  Many poor citizens can neither afford the cost of a state ID nor have access to the state offices that issue these ID’s.  Budget cuts across states have forced states to close local offices making acquiring an ID even more difficult and costly.  The Supreme Court has ruled that poll taxes in any form are illegal and many are beginning to argue that closing local offices and requiring citizens to drive to other cities and pay for a state ID is a form of a poll tax.  The civil rights movement was largely about the right to vote.  People died in the streets for this right.  As states slowly but precipitously abridge this right, people will react strongly.

Civil rights leaders are beginning to sound the alarm.  Marc Morial, head of the National Urban League warned the convention of “modern-day Jim Crow methods wrapped in thousand-dollar suits.” In Pennsylvania, citizens are filing suit against the state’s strict new voter ID law.  Attorney Judith Browne Dianis, said, “These laws do not prevent fraud; they prevent voting.”  Across the country citizens advocate groups are rising up and beginning to challenge these undemocratic laws in the courts.

The New York School of Law Brennen Center for Justice studied 10 of the states that implemented new restrictive voter ID laws and found that nearly 500,000 eligible voters will not be able to vote in coming elections.  In Georgia, the current Secretary of State, Brian Kemp is neck and neck in a race against Stacey Abrams.  If elected, the former state legislator would become the first African American women ever elected governor of any state.  Ms. Abrams insists that Secretary Kemp is using regressive laws aimed at suppressing votes to purge would be voters in the state.

Besides suppression, race is a huge factor in the governor’s race in Florida, where right wing conservative Ron Desantis faces liberal progressive Andrew Gillum.  Desantis used racially divisive language immediately after discovering that Gillum would be his opponent.  Saying “voters shouldn’t monkey up the race,” Desantis faced a firestorm of supporters and detractors from many after making the comments.  Just this past weekend, former Georgia governor and current Secretary of Agriculture warned voters that this election “is so cotton-picking important”.  Republican strategists’ attempting to get their candidate elected is expected. Racism is unacceptable in American politics.  But in 2018, white leaders appeal to the ignoble and base desires of white voters with regularity and without much disguise.  All Americans must combat this vitriol at every front. The right to vote for every American is a constitutional right and should not be denied based upon race despite the desires of politicians.

We will see how the people decide on Tuesday night.


7 thoughts on “Racism and Voter Suppression”
  1. You can vote in Louisiana without a picture ID. You need to know your mom’s maiden name and your own date of birth. Then you fill out an affidavit signed by you and the commissioner in charge.

    I have been working the polls for over 15 years. The laws on this have not changed. Please print the facts.

  2. The focus of this article is misleading. It starts with Louisiana, but quickly expands to other states, implying that what is going on in others states is representative of our own.

    You state that voters must produce either a drivers license or state ID or they are forbidden to vote. In reality, voters in Louisiana can present a driver’s license, a passport, a military ID or a Louisiana identification card. If they do not have any of these, they can sign an affidavit stating they are legal residents registered to vote in the state. This hardly seems to qualify as the “most restrictive voter laws.” If it is, it leads me to question the integrity of the votes in other states.

    You imply that these kinds of laws are pushed by Republicans with the intent to disenfranchise Democratic voters. Louisiana’s voter ID law was passed in 1997 by the overwhelmingly Democrat controlled House (D-76, R-28, O-1), the Democrat controlled Senate (D-25, R-14) and signed into law by Governor Mike Foster (R). You quote Marc Morial decrying the “modern-day Jim Crow,” but he said nothing in 1997 when the law was passed in Louisiana and he was mayor of New Orleans. His current rhetoric seems more political grandstanding than substantive concern.

    In the 20 years during which this law has been in effect, neither voter fraud nor voter suppression has been revealed in Louisiana. Nor have there been outcries of voter disenfranchisement. Validating the identity of the person at the polls has had no negative effects on any of our voters and has protected the integrity of our elections.

    I do agree with you that voting should be “easy, fair, and free.” Every effort should be made to facilitate voters registering to vote and casting their ballots. You are also right that people died to secure, and preserve, the right of citizens to vote. As we strive to preserve the rights of citizens to vote, let’s be cautious about the rhetoric we use in the discussion.

  3. Most states 30 require no ID whatsoever. You simply walk in provide your name and address and vote.
    Down south, the poll taxes mentioned in the comment above – passport, driver’s license, state ID – are illegal and should be abolished.
    So the article is correct in pointing out how restrictive LA is!
    Thanks Jeff for telling the truth

  4. La Law requires the following to vote-
    -Louisiana driver’s license
    -Louisiana special ID card
    -Other generally recognized picture identification

    If the applicant does not have identification, s/he shall sign an affidavit to that effect before the commissioners, and the applicant shall provide further identification by presenting his current registration certificate, giving his date of birth or providing other information stated in the precinct register that is requested by the commissioners. However, an applicant that is allowed to vote without the picture identification required by this Paragraph is subject to challenge as provided in R.S. 18:565.

  5. Of course Louisiana leads in voter suppression and the photo i.d. requirements are abused by election commissioners all over the state, as was the intention of the Republicans including Woody Jenkins, who drafted them. It’s even more convoluted than signing an affidavit, which is the law that allows one to vote without a photo i.d. UNLESS, and here are more fogged up rules: You must have a photo i.d. for the first time that you vote. You must have a photo i.d. if you early vote. These rules are easier to violate because they are so fogged up and because on election day, the people in charge of the process are the ones who demand that folks show photo i.d. at the first time they vote and when they early vote, the Registrars.
    It’s sad to see the hate against the Democrats as if they could do anything with Governor Foster who rammed thru his agenda, like the grandson to the Ku Klux Klanner might. Louisiana has a very strong gubernatorial form of government, which is also how this undemocratic and voter suppression legislation was passed. Of course, Mayor Morial objected, but he had no vote in the matter.
    This pattern of white washing clearly hateful and oppressive white history, and as voter suppression continues today in Louisiana and is from a legacy of gruesome actions against the African American citizenry, another subject that needs to be brought to light here.

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