Voter suppression is an ugly art form

Before the North Carolina General Assembly signed off on the Voter ID Law a couple of years ago, I wrote an email to members of the General Assembly. The thrust of my email is the law is unconstitutional and Jim Crow-like and should not be passed. I received a very ridiculing retort from a legislator who took offense that I dare use the term “Jim Crow-like” to describe the law. My response to him was much more straightforward – as a white man who used to be a Republican, you and I both know what this law is all about.

After its passing, Aasif Mandvi, as a member of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show interviewed the Republican Party  precinct leader of Buncombe County which includes Asheville, NC. The GOP leader responded to questions in a comically racist manner then added the line defining what the law is all about. He said the law is designed to “kick the Democrats’ butts.” To some of his racist comments, Mandvi responded, “you do realize we can hear you?” The leader resigned the next day, with the State Republican leadership saying the Buncombe County leader’s remarks did not represent the party’s position. Based on my opinion, he resigned because he told the truth and it embarrassed the party (a link is below).

Last summer, to thwart off a negative court decision, the General Assembly softened the law trying to appease the judge. The leaders of the General Assembly recognized fully they had overplayed their hand. Yet, the unconstitutional elements remained. The appellate court ruling last week that the law is unconstitutional added some severe language to their ruling. The judges said the drafters “surgically” devised the features of the law to suppress votes of African-Americans by specifically focusing on racial voting data. The court even cited this interview as part of the evidence.

The General Assembly’s attorneys could not cite one example of voter fraud when asked in court, even though voter fraud is their stated reason for the law. Yet, while a miniscule amount of fraud might exist, per The Washington Post in an October 13, 2014 article called “The disconnect between voter ID laws and voter fraud,” most voting fraud occurs in the absentee ballots. However, most Voter ID laws, like the NC one, do not address this exposure. So, in my view, the only voter fraud occurred with the drafters of the Voter ID Law itself. And, when people focus only on the ID part of the law, that is only one part of the law that discriminates. The elimination of same day registration, fewer early voting days, fewer precincts for early voting and restrictions on students voting on campus all add up to voter suppression.

It took 100 years for African-American voters to be able to vote as promised following the Civil War. Jim Crow and voter suppression got in the way. After the Supreme Court foolishly decided certain aspects of the 1965 Voters Rights Act were no longer needed, these Voter ID laws were passed in multiple states using cookie cutter language. Four states just had their laws ruled unconstitutional, including North Carolina’s. It is time for we citizens to say enough to this General Assembly and stop using our tax dollars to pay for attorneys to allow discrimination.


20 thoughts on “Voter suppression is an ugly art form

    • Me too. I think this election would have worn him out. Initially, I thought John Oliver did the interview, but was reminded it was Aasif Mandzi instead. His line I quoted above is priceless.

  1. Where did you get this, “Yet, while a minuscule amount of fraud might exist, most voting fraud occurs in the absentee ballots. Since, those ballots tend to favor white voters, the law did not address this exposure.” ? Just what are you considering to be voter fraud in the absentee ballot system? And how do absentee ballots that let anyone vote from home favor white voters?

    • Roseylinn, thanks for asking, I need to go back and check my original source which was from an article I read when the law had been passed. There is not much voter fraud to begin with, but the article cited it was easier for someone to pretend to be a source and mail in a ballot. These were folks traveling. Let me do justice to your question. Thanks for raising it. Thanks, Keith

      • Roseylinn, this is from a October, 2014 article in The Washington Post.

        “That said, there have been examples of fraud, including fraud perpetrated through the use of absentee ballots severe enough to force new elections at the state level. But the slew of new laws passed over the past few years meant to address voter fraud have overwhelmingly focused on the virtually non-existent/unproven type of voter fraud, and not the still-not-common-but-not-non-existent abuse of absentee voting.”

        It did not cite a source. So, I am looking through some GAO audit reports. I will alter my post to cite the Post, but as it was silent on the demographic make-up, I struck the reference to white voters. The Post was not the only source I read. And, if I find additional sources will cite them. Thanks for keeping me honest. It is greatly appreciated. Keith

      • Thanks, I read the article and saw the few cases it cited. In any voting system there can be abuse and/or fraud and legitimate cases of such should be investigated. However; Oregon has had Vote By Mail since 2000; after 70% of voters voted for the system. Since then they have processed 23.8 million ballots and only 13 people have been prosecuted for voter fraud. The 13th was a part-time elections worker who believed she needed to fill in the ballots if any were left empty. They caught her after her second ballot.

      • Roseylinn, great point. I believe if you have an entire system set up like in Oregon, there is extra due diligence. I think the example cited by The Washington Post, the diligence did not exist at the same level as it was less frequent due to travel, overseas service people, etc.

        I would love to see us have a system that would get a much larger percentage to vote. And, one that is developed by a nonpartisan group rather than politicians. Thanks again for your feedback, Keith

    • You are so correct. We should overhaul the whole process, including getting the unfettered money out of it by passing a 28th amendment to the Constitution, which would say money does not equate to free speech and repeal two of the most horrible Supreme Court rulings on funding elections. Keith

    • It has been this way for too long. We need nonpartisan commissions to devise voting districts and assure the laws are fair. And, see my note to Susan about national changes. I would shorten all elections, as well.

    • Jill, thanks. Hopefully, the tide is turning on this. Our majority legislators here are smug and just say it is liberal leaning judges. Yet, this is the third law that has been ruled unconstitutional passed in the past few years with our unconstitutional LGBT law pending. Keith

      • I hope, but … why should this be rocket science? I guess I am naive, but I still live by the adage of treat others the way you want to be treated. It really is not that hard. Sigh.

      • Jill, we need to get politicians out of setting rules for voting, districting and elections. They are too consumed on how it affects them. Sometimes it even backfires, like gerrymandering did. Now, the GOP realizes they made a pathway for extreme politicians to get elected who have little appetite for compromise. Most of the problems in the House of Representatives for the Republican leadership comes from its own party, not Democrats. Keith

  2. Note to Readers: As portrayed in the movie “Selma,” about MLK’s march to the state capitol, which was first stopped by vicious beatings at the bridge caught on film, the voter suppression was shown. I also saw an excellent documentary on the Freedom Schools where the three young teachers were kidnapped and killed in Mississippi (also portrayed in the film “Mississippi Burning”). This documentary also revealed the voter suppression. Even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Black citizens who tried to register to vote had to recite the constitution preamble word for word. If they missed a word, they were denied. White voters did not have to do such. If Black citizens tried and failed, their name would appear in the newspaper and they would be ostracized or even fired from their job. And, there have been examples where they were beaten and killed.

    The Freedom Schools were staffed by hundreds of young people of all races and religions to travel to Mississippi to teach kids who were not being taught well or at all in schools. To show how suppression occurs, Black citizens who embraced these kids were in danger, as well as white citizens. The true story of a White family inviting some of the Freedom School kids to their home for dinner, ended with a knock on the door within ten minutes asking “what are they doing here?” This white family was forced to leave the state – what makes the story even more profound is their daughter was the reigning Miss Mississippi.

    Suppression occurred on Black citizens in violent ways, but White citizens who tried to help were ostracized. This is why we all need to shine a light on these unconstitutional Voter ID laws.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.