Across the country, Republican lawmakers are using straw man arguments over voter fraud to impose increasing restrictions on access to the ballot box. In response, President Joe Biden and others called the changes “un-American,” rhetorically downplaying the violence of voter suppression that has actually been central to US history.
When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, a century had passed since the end of the Civil War and the passing of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments which defined birthright and political and legal rights. who accompanied him.
During this century, with the exception of the first decade and the change of reconstruction, the blacks of the South were, through networks of Jim Crow laws inserted in the constitutions of the States over a period of several decades, in great party prevented from exercising their right to vote. These laws included property tax requirements for voting, literacy tests, voting taxes, sometimes even bizarre knowledge and trivia tests required only of black residents. In much of the South, where the then-segregationist Democratic Party held power, the Party defined itself as a private “club” and set its own rules – including a white-only voting restriction in primary elections.
While many of these laws also had the potential to exclude poor and undereducated white residents from electoral rolls, the main impact was against blacks. Indeed, the majority of southern states took steps to protect the right to vote of impoverished white voters by codifying the so-called “grandfather clauses”, which allowed illiterate and impoverished whites, who would otherwise be excluded from voting. political process, to vote as long as their grandparents were eligible to vote in the two years following the Civil War – a clause that overwhelmingly and deliberately worked to protect whites while surgically excluding black voters, including the grandparents had not yet reaped the electoral benefits of Reconstruction in the years before the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, access to the ballot box.
Even in places far from the old Confederacy, widespread discrimination and racial violence meant that blacks, and, in the Western states in particular, residents of Asian and Latin American descent, were, during those years , marginalized politically and in many cases economically.
Part of what made this network of laws so largely pernicious was the sheer ingenuity of the methods of discrimination. Generations of politicians and lawyers have worked diligently to exclude black voters from the political process, while often claiming to do so in a “color blind” manner. It was a form of don’t ask, don’t say discrimination driven by segregationist Democrats that, for most of a century, conservative justices and Supreme Court justices have supported.
Now, five generations after the original Jim Crow Building was built, the modern GOP, with a nod and nod of approval from a right-wing Supreme Court, has become a party dedicated to the massive deprivation of the right to vote and both to purge existing voters. lists and a contraction of the right to vote for potential future voters.
The recent Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee The Supreme Court ruling was upheld as Arizona’s constitutional law prohibiting the counting of the votes of those who accidentally voted in the wrong ridings, and also prohibiting the so-called “harvesting” of ballots. This decision does not go as far as the decisions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that supported Jim Crow, but it is a step in the same direction. Because, in deciding that there was no intention to violate the provisions of the Voting Rights Act, and in the wake of previous rulings that had already weakened the framework of the law, the six conservative justices opened the legal floodgates to creative restrictions on the franchise that claim to be racially neutral while having an obvious racial impact.
Like the architects of Jim Crow, today’s disenfranchising scholars have identified a series of weak spots in the country’s electoral systems that can be exploited with racial consequences and yet maintain enough of a fiction. from racial neutrality to pass half the conservative Supreme Court. thorough review. In Georgia, laws have been passed prohibiting morning voting on Sundays; these laws never mention race, but it is clear that the sole purpose of these laws is to eliminate “souls at the polls” efforts, in which thousands of black voters go to vote after church services in the South. In Arizona, the ban on counting accidentally placed votes in the wrong constituency will almost certainly affect non-white, low-income voters more, as infrequent voters are more likely to have trouble navigating the complexities of the voting process. vote, and, historically, for many reasons, these demographics have had lower voter turnout rates. In Texas, the governor is pushing a set of restrictions that would massively override early voting processes in large urban counties, where large numbers of non-white voters live.
Many other Republican-controlled states are moving in the same direction; now with the Brnovich decision, it becomes more likely that these laws will withstand court scrutiny.
Jim Crow was not implemented in a rush; it was in fact a long process which in some states took decades, from the end of Reconstruction to the beginning of the 20th century, to complete. This is, I fear, what is happening here. What is created by these laws is a precedent: a field test to see how far in the years to come the advocates of disenfranchisement can go before the courts draw a red line. If the recent court ruling is a harbinger of things to come, the answer, sadly, is that they can go a long way, knowing that the court does not want to get involved as more and more Americans have obstacles way to the polls.