Georgia began early elections on Columbus Day, or as some call it Indigenous American Day. The news about the folk having to vote in this Republican run state brought shivers to me when I think of what they had to go through. They were in lines from five to seven hours and up to eleven hours before they could cast their ballots. Even in the worst countries in the world those waits are unheard of yet we tolerate them here because we allow the Republicans who see themselves slowly becoming irrelevant to make a last gasp effort at retaining power by depriving others of the right to vote.
If people have the Constitutional right to vote for their representatives then the government has an obligation to make that right as easy to exercise as it can. The only way the people can have any power is through the ballot box and if those who once elected prevent people from voting them out by restricting the ability of people to vote then that is not what a democracy is about. It is a false election when people who want to vote cannot do that with relative ease.
A country changes from a democracy to an authoritarian government when the right to vote is infringed upon. This can be done as we see in Georgia by trying people’s patience hoping they will give up an go away. It can be done as urged by Trump that militia folk go out to the voting stations to make sure the right people are voting. It can be done when doubt is cast upon time honored and perfectly safe means of voting as Trump is doing.
Do you know the history of Jim Crow in America? You should if you don’t. It was in part an attempt to deprive Black citizens of the right to vote. In Louisiana for example in 1896 governor’s race 130,344 Blacks were registered to vote. After that laws were passed to restrict their voting power. In 1898 there were 12, 902, and in the presidential year 1900 there were 5,320 Blacks who could vote, a decrease of over 95%. We see it again today as the only road to victory for Republicans is to deny the Black citizen the right to vote.
Supreme Court Justice Ward Hunt wrote in 1876, “the greatest of rights among freemen — the ballot.” He went on to say, “The citizen of this country, . . . who possesses the right to vote, holds a powerful instrument for his own advantage. The political and personal importance of the large bodies of emigrants among us, who are entrusted at an early period with the right to vote, is well known to every man of observation. Just so far as the ballot for them or the freeman is abridged, in the same degree is their importance and security diminished.” He was particularly referring to the Irish who gained their power through the election box yet today many Irish who found home with the Republicans want to deprive others of the same opportunity.
Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan in 1896 wrote: “The destinies of the two races in this country are indissolubly linked together, and the interests of both require that the common government of all shall not permit the seed of race hate to be planted under sanction of law.”
Are the Republicans in America willing to see that their actions throughout the country in state after state which they control are telling the Black citizens that they are to be treated differently from the white citizens? Don’t they see that sending out a message to the minorities by making their ability to use the franchise more and more difficult that they are forever alienating this growing population? Why would any American want to make it difficult for another American to cast his or her vote? Are the Republicans attempting to bring us to the Jim Crow days?
This time it will not work. America was not great when we deprived our Black citizens of their voting rights. It will only be great when citizens can vote easily and quickly.