If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Cheat

Before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it was not uncommon in the South for local election officials to ensure proper voting registration to be maintained through the use of “literacy tests” aimed at making sure that those who did vote held the competence necessary to engage in the noble act of self governance.

Of course, these tests were administered with nothing but the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.

See, that was what one would might call sarcasm, in case you missed it.  In all actuality, literacy tests were a rather devious part of a broader mechanism to prevent black people (in the South), and Latinos (more in the west) from being able to vote.

For instance, in Alabama, if you were tenacious enough to overcome the gauntlet just to get inside the registrar’s office, an odyssey that could result in the loss of your job, your home, and having your personal information hand delivered to white supremecist groups, you still had to undergo the literacy test.

If you’re curious, you can view a few sample literacy tests here, but if you don’t have a pdf reader, or don’t feel like clicking the link, here are a few choice sample questions:

  1. If a person accused of treason denies his guilt, how many persons must testify against him before he can be convicted?
  2. If the United States wishes to purchase land for an arsenal and have exclusive legislative authority over it, consent is required from _____.
  3. The power of granting patents, that is, of securing to inventors the exclusive right to their discoveries, is given to the Congress for the purpose of______.

 Now, I’ve omitted the answers because these questions are admittedly much easier when filled in, but you can see where I’m going with this.  Not only is the knowledge tested upon not necessarily vital for someone to know in order to make an informed decision in the voting booth, but it’s friggin’ hard.

Not that right answers particularly mattered.  These tests were graded in private, and the score could easily be overridden by the graders on the basis of whether they felt you were qualified or not.  So a white person could easily fail the test, but still be considered qualified while a black person could ace the test, and still be deemed unqualified.

The point is this.  No one labeled this the “Keep Blacks Out Of Our Voting Booths” initiative.  No, this was all passed under a veil of legitimacy to ostensibly ensure that voters were minimally competent enough to cast a vote based upon an informed foundation of knowledge.

This practice has been outlawed.

But because this has been outlawed does not mean that all attempts to disenfranchise black voters have stopped completely.  Indeed, halting this has only led to more complex and superficially legitimate means to do so.

WASHINGTON — Ohio and Florida, which provided the decisive electoral votes for President Bush’s two razor-thin national election triumphs, have enacted laws that election experts say will help Republicans impede Democratic-leaning minorities from voting in 2008.

Backers of the new laws say they’re aimed at curbing vote fraud. But the statutes also could facilitate a controversial Republican tactic known as “vote caging,” which the GOP attempted in Ohio and Florida in 2004 before public disclosures foiled the efforts, said Joseph Rich, a former Justice Department voting rights chief in the Bush administration who’s now with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.

Caging, used in the past to target poor minorities in heavily Democratic precincts, entails sending mass mailings to certain voters and then using the undelivered letters to compile lists of voters for eligibility challenges.

As the high-stakes ground war escalates heading into next year’s elections, Republicans have led the charge for an array of revisions to state voting rights laws, especially in key battleground states. Republican political appointees in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division have endorsed some of these measures.

Over the last three years, the Republican-controlled state legislatures in Indiana, Georgia, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have passed laws requiring every voter to produce a photo identification card — measures that civil rights groups contend were aimed at suppressing minority voting.

The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to consider a constitutional challenge to Indiana’s ID law on grounds that it unfairly affects poor and elderly voters. Gubernatorial vetoes or court rulings have nullified legislation in the other four states. A federal judge in Georgia, however, recently upheld a new photo ID law that imposes fewer obstacles to obtaining one.

In Ohio, which swung the 2004 election to Bush, new Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said in a phone interview that an election law passed last year and signed by former Republican Gov. Bob Taft effectively “institutionalized” vote caging.

The law requires that the state’s 88 county election boards send non-forwardable, pre-election notices to all 7.8 million registered Ohio voters at least 60 days before the election. Undelivered letters are public record, she said, meaning that effectively, “now the counties are paying for” the data needed to compile challenge lists.

In addition, Brunner said, the law toughened voter ID requirements and “took away rights of some voters to be heard about whether or not their registration was valid.”

In the past, Ohio voters were entitled to an official notice and a hearing before an election board could declare them ineligible, but the new law says that the board can make that decision without notice. A disqualified voter who shows up at the polls must demonstrate that he’s fixed any eligibility problem or opt for filing a provisional ballot that may not count.

Again we find that the stated purpose is not particularly offensive; make sure everyone that votes is actually elligible to.  However, the execution of the law, much like the execution of the literacy tests, proves to occur at the detriment of minority voting rights.

The following is a particularly disturbing graf in the story:

Asked whether they might employ vote caging in 2008, Executive Director Jason Mauk of the Ohio Republican Party and spokeswoman Erin VanSickle of the Florida Republican Party said they couldn’t discuss election strategy.

You know, I didn’t know that voter disenfranchising was a strategy so much as a reprehensible practice, but I’m glad key members of two state Republican party organizations were there to clear that up for us.

One would think that if you wanted to impact how your party does among minority voters, you would reach out to them as opposed to attempt a purge of their numbers from the rolls, but then, this is the Republican party we’re talking about.

I’ve given this bit of advice, and I’ll give it again; if you want people to stop calling  you a racist, quit acting like one.

3 Responses to “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Cheat”

  1. mick says:

    That’s precisely the problem, of course. They’re desperately trying to find a way to make people stop calling them racists but that at the same time will let them go right on being racist and pandering to racists. It’s not easy, and they don’t understand what the trouble is. I mean, in the GOP, you just say something is real and you’re done. But outside the bubble, people keep demanding more than lip service, and that baffles them.

    As Bush keeps saying, it’s hard work being a Republican. They work hard. They’re hard workers, and we ought to give them credit for working hard and quit worrying about just what it is they’re working hard at. That part’s none of our goddamn business anyhow.

  2. “We’re doin’ HARD WORK on racism issues!”

    Yeah, just the wrong effing way, right?

  3. xranger says:

    You liberals are truly simpletons on this issue. The fact that someone has to show their ID card WILL ELIMINATE voter fraud. You should realize this as libs – the Democrats made it into an art. (See Nixon losing the prez election to JFK by losing Illinois. This was delivered by Chicago’s Casey, raiding the graveyards for additional votes).

    In Georgia, the law stated that, if you do not drive (and have a license), we will get you a separate ID. If you cannot go to the county seat to get said ID, we will send a car to get you. Somehow, this law was still struck down by the lib courts.

    Easier for the libs to claim, and perform, voter fraud, doncha know.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook