A tradition of keeping African-Americans voters from the polls

New laws in dozens of states could take out Barack Obama this fall.

Around noon on a windy fall Sunday, the motorcade began forming. Dozens of African-Americans, ages five to 85, poured from the three-story New Covenant Baptist Church and into a coughing twenty-year-old bus, a cramped church van and their cars.

The caravan snaked down Rio Grande Avenue, turned onto Kaley Street, and passed beat-up buildings and old houses downtown. Ten minutes later, it stopped at the county election supervisor's office, where 150 church members filed inside to cast their ballots, all for Barack Obama.

"It was like a crusade," remembers Randolph Bracy, a charismatic, athletic 67-year-old minister. "There was great pride. We were going to vote for the first African-American president."

See more images in this slide show: Xico Artists Featured in "Crossing the Line"
See more images in this slide show: Xico Artists Featured in "Crossing the Line"

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More Crossing the Line viewpoints:

"Bordering on revolution: America's war on Mexicans has gone too far," by Michael Lacey

"Love the beans, hate the beaner: America's love-hate relationship with Mexicans and Mexican food," by Gustavo Arellano

"Latino activists prepare for the Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's SB 1070," by Stephen Lemons



Village Voice Media commissioned artists associated with the Phoenix-based cultural collective Xico to produce a series of covers for its papers -- each one is unique to each city -- for its national story on Arizona SB1070, "Crossing the Line." Here are those images with additional artworks and biographical information on the individual artists. Founded in 1975, Xico is a nonprofit organization that promotes Chicano, Latino and Native American heritage through the arts. Its programing includes arts classes and workshops for underserved youth, community exhibitions, artist education, printmaking workshops, the valley's oldest Dia de los Muertos/A Celebration of Life festival and small-venue performances. To find out more, visit www.xicoinc.org.

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That was "Souls to the Polls" 2008 in Orlando. It can't happen this year.

It's illegal.

In a brazen attempt to steal this fall's election, Florida's Republican lawmakers have outlawed voting on Sunday, an African-American tradition. Indeed, across the United States, from Montana to Maine and Texas to Tennessee, 41 states have recently passed or introduced laws to restrict voter registration and early voting, and generally limit suffrage.

It's the greatest show of racially fueled political chicanery since turn-of-the-twetieth-century laws banned scores of African-Americans from casting ballots. More than 5 million voters — largely minority — could be kept from the polls, according to New York University's Brennan Center for Justice.

"When Jim Crow was passed, [segregationists] said because of this plan, the darkie will be eliminated as a factor in elections in five years," says Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP's national president and CEO. "We beat that. But now these state governments are doing the same thing, disenfranchising entire blocks of black and Hispanic voters."

For decades, Southern states barred African-Americans from voting through white-supremacist tricks such as literacy tests. That practice mostly ended in 1965, after America watched cops gassing and clubbing voting-rights demonstrators marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. The law, said then-president Lyndon B. Johnson, was "a turning point in man's unending search for freedom."

In the years that followed, there were more attempts to cheat minorities at the polls. One was a law in many states that blocked felons from voting and made it difficult to get reinstated. Largely because of zero tolerance for drug crimes, this measure affected one in twelve black men.

A new scam started in Arizona in 2004, when voters approved a law to require not only an ID to cast a ballot, but also proof of citizenship to register. The measure has been plodding through the courts ever since, and the citizenship provision was recently ditched. But one California federal judge who heard the case on appeal, Harry Pregerson, noted that "intimidation keeps Latino voters away from the polls."

In 2006, Missouri required voters to show a state or federal ID at the polls. It sounded logical. But supporters failed to emphasize that a quarter of blacks and almost as many Latinos lack this documentation. "The absurdity of these rules was pretty clear," says Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. "A Supreme Court judge said he was old and had let his license expire. Could he vote? And we had a member of Congress who couldn't use his congressional ID to vote."

The Missouri Supreme Court threw out that measure, but two other states — Indiana and Georgia — passed their own ID requirements that the U.S. Supreme Court has since rubber-stamped.

These earlier attacks pale in comparison to last year's blitzkrieg, when Republicans — who had taken control of 57 state House and Senate chambers in 2010 — began to contemplate this fall's presidential election. They had seen minority voters turn out en masse to vote for Obama and were determined to turn the tide.

In just the past eighteen months, thirteen states have passed laws that require voters to show ID. In several of those locales, including Minnesota, the governor vetoed the bills, but most of the others are likely to take effect before this fall's election.

In Texas, which is under federal scrutiny because of past attempts to dupe minorities, the U.S. Department of Justice blocked the measure. Twenty percent of that state's voters are Latino — and are far more likely to lack photo IDs, the feds found. The law, says Camila Gallardo, national spokesperson for the Latino rights organization La Raza, was "an affront to everyone. They are attacking the core of our democracy, which is open participation."

Gallardo was born in Santa Clara, California, to a Cuban-American family. She points out that her grandmother, who emigrated from the island long ago, never needed a driver's license or bothered with a passport, but has been allowed to vote in that state because she is a citizen. California is one of the few states that have stayed clear of the great anti-minority backlash.

On the other side of the nation, however, Florida has moved to the top of the class when it comes to discrimination. Federal courts are considering the Republican leadership's attempts to not only outlaw Sunday voting but also severely limit voter registration.

The laws being challenged, for instance, require anyone who helps voters sign up with the state to submit all registration documents within 48 hours. Last week, a federal judge in Tallahassee blocked some parts of the law, but let others — like the prohibition on Sunday voting — stand. To date, the registration requirements have proven so difficult to meet that even groups such as the Boy Scouts of America have given up on registering voters this year.

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6 comments
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Ladieslovecoolme
Ladieslovecoolme

White people do not have a certain day of the week that they traditionally vote on. A law banning voting on Sunday is clearly targeting the exact demographic that DOES have the tradition of voting on Sunday(Racism). This is CLEARLY a ploy to skew election results. A law that requires ID to vote is not racist, it is designed to keep those without IDs from voting. While this law doesn't necessarily target a specific race, it does target the part of the population that does not have the resources or ambition to acquire the ID, mainly lower income or non-functional citizens. Do these people still have the right to vote? YES. Should illegal immigrants have the right to vote? IMHO YES- each and every one is most definitely obligated to adhere to American law. Why then, should they not have a say as to how those laws are constructed. After all, illegal immigrants are who originally populated this country and lest we forget they were responsible for the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence(rendering them immigrants no longer) and the good ol' Constitution of the United States(that which we have completely lost sight of). A journalists mission is to inform. Sometimes, a personal view might contaminate the writing of a perfectly well intentioned article, meant to inform the public of the need for REFORM. I implore you- do not shoot the messenger because he put the bad news in his own words.

Ladieslovecoolme
Ladieslovecoolme

Your first sentence is incomplete. Also, I believe you meant African Americans with no apostrophe. Now what were you saying?

Joe
Joe

This article is so Democrat. I can't believe people buy into this garbage. Democrats are the ultimate race hustlers and poverty pimps. They assume black people (and other minorities) are stupid, don't have ID's, can't get a job, can't pay their bills, need social justice and welfare programs. I know very successful minorities, and very unsuccessful white people....'cause that's who the enemy is, right? The Democrat party is like having an enabler family member that you see on Intervention. It makes perfect sense that everyone shows up to the voting place with their ID. PERFECT! Ever notice these articles never talk about asian people? What's up with that shit?

Donkey Hotay
Donkey Hotay

U$A = a nation founded upon racism, bigotry and hate

Wilson
Wilson

Is it true Chuck? ....Are black people so pathetic and helpless they can't meet the requirements to buy cigarettes, or go see a show at the Bluebird. According to you blacks are so feeble minded and weak they are unable to get an ID and show up at their polling place to vote. The only reason you don't want voter ID is so ineligible voters can vote, and that's why you wrote the article. You pretend like black people are so pathetic and helpless they don't have a chance unless someone like you comes to their rescue. Blacks are just regular people like you and me with every chance to become president, or run a corporation or any other accomplishment they want to achieve. You have a sick mind, you can just lie like it's no big deal, most normal people can't do that, and that's what makes you a sick person.

Matua48
Matua48

It's not bull. #TrueStory

 
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