ELECTIONS HAVE consequences. It’s a phrase we hear all the time, generally from whichever party won a recent election and is claiming a mandate to fulfill campaign promises.
Sometimes, for those observing Washington from the outside, the truth of this statement can get lost. People see partisan gridlock and say to themselves, “Nothing ever gets done in Washington. Both parties have all sorts of problems. Why should I even bother to vote?” Yet the truth is that all elections—local, state, national—matter. They all have consequences. And in 2017, we are seeing this play out in particularly dramatic and alarming ways.
There are countless examples, but I want to focus on the Department of Justice. While most employees there are career civil servants who stay in their positions regardless of who is president, new presidents get to fill many of the top positions with political appointees. Presidents can pick whoever they want to fill these posts (some must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate), and they can be fired by the president at any time, for any reason. FBI directors serve 10-year terms to insulate them from political pressure, but as we saw in May with James Comey, they can also be fired by the president at any time.
This decision is one of numerous lawsuits that accuse Republicans of discriminating against black and other minority voters who usually vote Democrat. The NAACP called this habit “apartheid voting districts” and claimed Republicans weaken and minimize the voting rights of black voters by packing them into one district and diluting their influence while surrounding them with more white voters that are likely to support Republican candidates. This practice is also known as racial gerrymandering.
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by Republican leaders of a federal court ruling that removed ballot restrictions in North Carolina, due to the restrictions being discriminatory along the basis of race, reports Bloomberg News.
You should call the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law hotline 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) if you, or someone you know, are notified that you can’t vote, or can vote only under certain circumstances, and you suspect that unlawful practices are to blame for the difficulty.
Likewise, you should call the hotline if you notice at the poll any of the following eight possible signs of voter suppression, or if you notice blatant voter intimidation.
We must remove the veil that separates the least of these and count it not robbery to give them their legal, spiritual, and constitutional right to move beyond acts of mercy, but to build power for social change. As we begin to build prudent bridges, we break the sacred-secular divide and crippling covenants the silence us. We must renounce the manifesto placed upon our communities, schools, neighborhoods that allows the rich to reap where they have not sown. We must embrace our right to vote not only as a civil right, but a Godly right. We can no longer impose predatory measures upon ourselves; we have to remove the cloak of suppression.
EARLIER THIS YEAR I heard Rev. William Barber of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina use the phrase “Mr. James Crow, Esq.”
Since hearing the phrase, I have been reflecting on the revised and updated name for Jim Crow, the comprehensive and brutal system of racial segregation, discrimination, and terrorist violence against black lives and bodies—explicit in the U.S. South, and often implicit in the North, throughout the 20th century.
I have been thinking about this new and more-sophisticated Mr. James Crow, wearing a white shirt and a tie instead of a white sheet and a hood and inhabiting the back rooms in state legislatures and corporate offices instead of rural backwoods lynching sites.
I’ve also been thinking about Mr. Crow’s strategy for the 2016 election and the years ahead.
Mr. James Crow’s biggest concern now is the transformational demographic shifts occurring in the United States, which by 2040 or so will see a significant milestone: For the first time, the U.S. will no longer be a white-majority nation and, instead, will be made up of a majority of minorities. That’s one of the most important facts in American political life today. This fundamental demographic shift in racial and cultural identity is underneath almost everything in U.S. politics—including the presidential election.
So with a suit instead of a sheet, how does Mr. James Crow, Esq., enact his strategy? And what are the servants of Mr. Crow saying to one another?
THIS NEW VERSION of Jim Crow has a clear, systematic strategy to protect white supremacy and promote racial segregation, discrimination, and even violence. He knows that even he, with all his power, can’t prevent the racial demographics of America from evolving. But he thinks he can obstruct and delay the changes that new racial demographics will bring to American life and politics. In apartheid South Africa, we saw that even when a racial group is in the minority, it can wield the power to oppress other races and protect its own supremacy.
Mr. James Crow’s five-part strategy includes:
Just this summer, a federal court struck down the North Carolina law, ruling that certain provisions of it “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” The court added, “With race data in hand, the legislature amended the bill to exclude many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans” and “retained only the kinds of IDs that white North Carolinians were more likely to possess.” Yet, importantly, restrictive voter ID laws in a number of other states remain on the books, and will be in place for Election Day.
As the presidential election tightens and polls show Trump and Clinton within a few points of each other in North Carolina, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has appealed the Supreme Court to reinstate previous voter ID laws and cuts to early voting, according to NBC News. This comes in the wake of numerous voter-ID laws throughout the country being struck down in the courts this past month.
Since the summer of 2013, we have called this law — which the 4th Circuit struck down on Friday — a monster voter suppression bill. It was the first and the worst of many voter suppression measures to pass through state houses since the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision stripped the Voting Rights Act of its power to guarantee fair elections in this country. In many ways, it performed the new Southern Strategy of James Crow, Esq., which attempts to hold onto power as white voters become one among many minorities in this country. It is a strategy that necessarily depends on old fears, racism, and divide-and-conquer tactics.
Are voting restrictions about voter fraud, or are they just a ruse to suppress likely Democratic voters?
Since 2010, conservatives have instituted voting restrictions in 21 states, the most well-known of which are laws that require photo IDs at the polls.
This week, as the five candidates still in the running for the White House turned their campaigns westward; vying for top spots in Arizona, Idaho, and Utah, pundits wondered aloud if voter suppression would make an impact on the general election. At the same time, miles-long lines formed in Arizona’s Maricopa County, the most populous and racially diverse county in the state. According to reports, lines of voters were still winding around blocks and parking lots even as news stations were projecting winners. Why? Because Maricopa County had reduced its polling places by 70 percent between 2012 and 2016, from 200 polling places to 60. How could they do that?
Our country’s laws represent our values and our moral compass as Americans. They set norms, define transgressions, and mete out consequences for actions. And almost 50 years ago, our nation realized the harassment, intimidation, bureaucratic shenanigans, and violence so many African-Americans and other minority communities experienced when trying to exercise their rights to vote and participate in our great democracy. Our intolerance of such injustice led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — a great triumph in the defense of life, dignity, and equality.
Notwithstanding the near-universal praise the Voting Rights Act has received for ending some of the most overt discriminatory practices in our country’s voting history, there are some saying the Voting Rights Act’s time has passed. In fact, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from Shelby County, Ala., that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional and should be struck down. These arguments are misguided. The Voting Rights Act remains a vital piece of our national moral commitment never to permit racial discrimination in elections again.
What does it feel like to have your vote stolen?
It sucks. It feels like someone literally let all the air out of my balloon animal.
Late in September, I happily filled out my absentee ballot request form to the DuPage Election Commission. Illinois had a new measure that allows for anyone to request an absentee ballot. I expected for there to be a delay.
So I waited.
And I waited some more.
It’s here, God — Election Day in America. Today is the day when Americans everywhere are given the privilege and responsibility to exercise dominion (agency) at the polls.
Scripture tells us every human being is made in the image of God. We are, therefore, equally worthy of protection of the law. The United States Constitution and its Amendments tell us we are equally worthy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, at this very moment, laws stand poised to snatch dominion from the hands of the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable, ethnic minorities, students, and the elderly. Some scurrilous elected officials have worked behind the scenes to suppress the ability of voters to elect the person of their choice — all for the sake of politics
Of all the ugliness in Election 2012, nothing is more disturbing than attempts to prevent people from voting. Voter suppression strikes at the very heart of American democracy.
The flood of money into this year's campaigns has been bad enough, as wealth has sought to do what wealth usually seeks to do: gain control and preference.
The shouting of lies – not just shading the truth, but outright lies – has cheapened the liars and insulted the public.
Demagogic attacks grounded in religion, phony patriotism and race have undermined public trust in all politicians. It will take years to dig out from under the rot of such scorched-earth tactics.
But denying the basic right of citizenship to millions of voters is an offense we should all be protesting. For if the powerful can deny the vote to their opponents – especially the poor and people of color – they can deny the vote to anyone.
For the next 12 days it’s all about the ground game. With most voter registration deadlines passed, the fight against voter suppression has shifted focus from registration drives to calling banks, car-pools, and calls to vote early.
Bishop Dwayne Royster is Executive Director of P.O.W.E.R. (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild), a 37-member interfaith organizing coalition in Philadelphia. Royster is also lead pastor of Living Waters United Church of Christ in Philadelphia. In a recent interview Bishop Royster explained just how vital the fight against voter suppression has been for the people of Philadelphia.
According to a study conducted by the Pew Charitable Trust’s Philadelphia Research Initiative, Philadelphia is the 6th poorest large city in America with a poverty rate that held at 25 percent in 2011. The unemployment rate is higher than the national average at 11.5 percent, and nearly half of all high school students engage in a fist fight at least once in the course of a year. Tensions are high in the City of Brotherly Love.