Federal courts have repeatedly found that in the last decade, voting restrictions have been passed with the implicit purpose of racial discrimination. Strict voter ID laws are how law makers market these changes as upholding election integrity when, in actuality, they are finding new ways to make voting more difficult specifically for Black voters. Interestingly, defenders claim that voter ID laws are needed to combat voter impersonation fraud. But study after study have shown that voter impersonation fraud is markedly rare. Claims are also made that these laws impose little burden because everyone has the requisite ID — however, the reality is that millions of Americans do not, and they are disproportionately people of color.
After a “large-scale effort to register black voters”, Tennessee simultaneously imposed new hurdles for registering voters. Georgia implemented an “exact match” law which mandated voters’ names on their registration records must perfectly match their names on approved forms of identification. In the 2018 election, approximately 80 percent of the Georgia voters whose registrations were blocked by this law were people of color. (A lawsuit forced the state officials to essentially end the policy in 2019.) From unethical district zoning to targeted precinct closures, the covert racism is hard to miss. While these actions are often argued as necessary or to make voting practices even more ethical, the actual intention is quite the opposite.
Notably, many of the cities and states where police injustice and systemic racism runs deepest have been at the forefront of these aggressive voter suppression techniques. This is no coincidence. Republicans responded to the election of Barack Obama in 2008 not by trying to broaden their own base or appeal to a changing nation, but by modernizing voter suppression tactics out of the old Jim Crow playbook. Voting is simply not enough when in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Wisconsin and other closely divided states, minority voters are intentionally placed into as few districts as possible, thereby maximizing the power of suburban whites and rural conservatives — diluting powerful votes in Detroit, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Austin, San Antonio, Atlanta, and Milwaukee — and thus securing GOP control of state legislatures.
Voter suppression is as old as the nation itself. The history of systemic racism is ugly and painful and continues today. The same-old Jim Crow suppression measures are now simply refashioned in the digital era and hidden with supposedly race-neutral language. We have let this happen for far too long. Moving forward, citizens must make themselves aware of the policies and practices in place and WHY they are in place. The system must be willing to overhaul itself and rebuild while listening to the plight of the Black people of our nation.
Freeman Initiative believes that to move forward as a nation that can honorably exclaim that we are a democracy, we must ensure that ALL the people of our nation are heard. While this is bound to ruffle feathers, perhaps that is a noteworthy sign for the need to address these practices and send a clear message that these actions are unacceptable. Voter suppression in any and every form has no place in democracy and ending the practice is one of the reasons Freeman Initiative exists. Please support our efforts with a donation today.