iteracy tests. The Grandfather Clause.Identification Cards. Most students have learned about tactics likethese used following the Civil War to hinder Black men from voting,but we all thought they were a thing of the past. Recent actionsmade by the Republican Party and state governments however, arelikely to make us change our minds and take action to ensure ourvote will be counted in November.
The National Association for the Advancementof Colored People (NAACP) and People for the American Way recentlyissued a report explaining national efforts made to manipulateminority voters.
“The Long Shadow of Jim Crow: VoterIntimidation and Suppression in America” is a 27-page review ofhistorical and current cases that have affected or will potentiallyaffect minority participation in the upcoming 2004 Presidentialelections. It outlines the experience of Blacks, Latinos,Native Americans, and other minorities in their attempts toexercise the right to vote.
Julian Bond, Chairman of the Board for theNAACP said, “Minority voters bear the brunt of every form ofdisenfranchisement, including pernicious efforts to keep them awayfrom the polls. We must be prepared to confront and defeatthem.”
The ways in which minority voters rights arestifled vary, but some tactics include blatant harassment, theprovision of distorted information regarding election dates andforceful presentation of personal identification to use the polls,a policy not mandated by state or federal government.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement iscurrently under investigation for intimidating and questioningBlack voters in their homes about ballot fraud during the March2003 Mayoral elections.
John Pappageorge, a Republican staterepresentative for Michigan was quoted in the Detroit Free Pressarguing, “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we’re going tohave a tough time in this election.” Eighty-three percent ofDetroit’s population is African American.
Felony disenfranchisement is also a seeminglyinfluential way to suppress minority votes. In Florida, apurge list excluding felons from participating in the nationalelections was organized and almost placed in effect untilnewspapers discovered its existence. The list would haveplaced nearly 2,000 qualified voters at disadvantage.
A recent study conducted by the Justice Policy Institute, anon-profit organization in Washington DC, proved that prisonspending is an issue not only essential to the African Americancommunity, but to the 2004 elections as well. According tothe study, prison spending has increased five times as fast asspending for higher education.
Furthermore, prison rates are steadilyincreasing in the 17 swing states, which include Arizona, Arkansas,Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, NewHampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington(state), West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Although swing statescater neither to the Republican or
Democratic parties their votes are influentialto the results of the presidential election.
Dr. Lorenzo Morris Chairman of the HowardUniversity Political Science Department urges minorities to visitthe polls in upcoming elections despite the casual efforts thatwere made. Morris is certain that although the Black votewill not exceed the White vote, it will determine who takes officein the fall.
According to the Washington Post, more than 60non-profit organizations have formed the “Voter ProtectionCoalition,” which aims to ensure fair voting rights practices byvoluntarily monitoring polls during upcoming elections.