Have you ever asked yourself the question: Why is it so much easier to purchase an assault weapon than it is to not only vote, but have accessibility to vote?
You would think that in the midst of so many mass shootings and easy-access to powerful assault weapon, that there would be restrictive laws and processes in place to prevent potentially dangerous people from acquiring them…right? Nope. Not in America!
When you look at the current legislation being introduced and passed by Republican state lawmakers across the country, you would think voting has become more dangerous to the American people than the unfettered access to guns has become in America.
Here in 2021, instead of lawmakers in many states across the country focusing on addressing the issue of gun violence and mass shootings, they are choosing to file bills referred to as “Election Integrity” bills to restrict people’s ability to vote. Did you hear that?
Many of these state lawmakers are hell-bent on trying to restrict access and prevent people from voting rather than trying to stop dangerous people who are easily accessing assault weapons and committing atrocities at our schools, shopping malls, businesses and communities.
One such “Election Integrity” bill was just approved by the Georgia House and Senate, and then signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp, and it happens to be one of the most horrendous voter suppression bills introduced in this country since Jim Crow was in effect in the Deep South.
Under Senate Bill 202, one could argue that assault weapons are more accessible to Georgians than the voting booth.
Now that Senate Bill 202 has been signed into law, here are some of the controversial details:
- The State Election Board could remove county election boards and replace them with an interim elections manager, if they don’t like or agree with the results
- Criminalizes members of the public from distributing food or water to voters who are waiting in line, regardless of how long the voters have been standing in line
- Early voting for runoffs would be reduced to a minimum of one week because runoffs would occur four weeks after general elections
- Voting hours would be reduced, which would impact working class people who get off work later than others
- All but eliminates the use of mobile voting buses, barring emergencies, which will virtually eliminate the popular ‘Souls to the Polls’ Sundays, which is an event specifically organized to get Black voters to polls
- The deadline to request an absentee ballot would be set at 11 days before Election Day
- Ballot drop boxes would be banned and only be allowed inside early voting locations and available during business hours only
- Ballot drop boxes will not be available to voters in the last four days of an election
- Counties would be required to certify election results within six days, instead of the currently allotted 10 days
- Absentee ballots would be verified by requiring photo IDs with driver’s license numbers or other documentation, instead of voter signatures as in the past
Let’s face it!
America has a sordid history of its treatment of people of African descent, especially as it relates to issue of voting rights and allowing Blacks the legal right to participate in the voting process without hindering their ability to do so.
President Joe Biden has been adamant about this being a major issue and stated this week that the U.S. Department of Justice was taking a look at Georgia’s new restrictive voting bill. He released a statement after the bill was signed into law last week, stating that “It’s Jim Crow in the 21st Century — and it must end.”
President Biden went on to say:
“The Georgia voting law — like so many others being pursued by Republicans in statehouses across the country — is a blatant attack on the right to vote, the Constitution, and good conscience…I urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. We need to make it easier for all eligible Americans to access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote.”
In today’s society, when it comes to the freedoms that Blacks seek, including the right to vote, it is hard to distinguish today from the days of slavery, the Black Codes or the Jim Crow South.
From 1880 to 1965, there was an all-out assault on stopping Blacks from voting by having their right to vote deemed invalid. Although the 15th Amendment prohibited blatant disenfranchisement on the basis of race or prior enslavement, many Southern states came up with new and innovative ways to disenfranchise Blacks and keep Blacks from voting.
Remember during the height of slavery, you would have slave catchers and others say “Let me see your Free Papers”?
Having your Freedom Papers or “Free Papers” was an important thing for Blacks back then, in that those papers served as a legal document that proved that Black person was no longer enslaved. It was crucial for Blacks to file their “Free Papers” with the county deeds office so they could prove their free status and be protected from the slave catchers or those seeking to enslave them again. The bottom line is, Black people had to provide their identification to prove who they were and to seek to have the same rights and privileges of freedom as White people had.
Back during slavery it was: “Let me see your ‘Free Papers’” or something worse.
Then you had the infamous Jim Crow laws of the South, whereby states and local municipalities would institute laws that legalized racial segregation. Blacks were denied the right to vote, denied the ability to hold certain jobs, disenfranchised relative to receiving an equitable and quality education, along with other things. Sadly, yet truthfully, the majority of people, especially Black people, who fought against Jim Crow laws were often arrested, fined, given stiff jail sentences, beat up, threatened with violence and even murdered.
During the Jim Crow era it was: “How many bubbles are in this bar of soap?” or “How many marbles are in this jar?” or “Who was the 13th Vice President of the United States” in order to prove your freedom or seek to get registered to vote.
Couple that with literacy tests, poll taxes, voter intimidation and lynching, and you see that Blacks have been going through it for as long as Black people hit the shores of America.
Now, in 2021, it is: “I need to see your valid ID,” amongst other things, similar to the controversial and restrictive things that are included in Senate Bill 202.
Although Senate Bill 202 faces a myriad of challenges and pushback from President Biden, elected officials and various civil rights groups, it is now the law on the books. Many have filed lawsuits and are arguing that the bill violates the 1st and 15th amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the 1965 Voting Rights Act which forbids states from passing laws that will have an adverse impact on minorities and reduces minority participation in elections.
Earlier this week, the Georgia NAACP and their allies announced that they had filed an emergency lawsuit against Georgia’s Secretary of State and State Elections Board to challenge Senate Bill 202.
The state of Georgia isn’t alone in the filing of these “Election Integrity” bills, in that dozens of others states such as Arizona, Michigan and even here in Texas, which has a history of restrictive voting laws and processes.
As a matter of fact, according to the analysis provided in a recent 2020 study from Northern Illinois University, the state of Texas has the most restrictive voting laws and processes in the country, in that Texas “maintains an in-person voter registration deadline 30 days prior to Election Day, has reduced the number of polling stations in some parts of the state by more than 50 percent and has the most restrictive pre-registration law in the country.”
Here in Texas, Republican State Senator Paul Bettencourt has authored seven bills that, if passed, will once again make it harder for Blacks to vote in Texas.
- SB 1110 would require each Administrative Judge of each of the 11 districts in Texas to appoint judges who can hear issues raised by either a candidate or a political party within three hours of the request prior to Election Day and within one hour on Election Day
- SB 1111 would require voters to provide documentation that they live at the address where they are registered when they receive a confirmation request from the registrar
- SB 1112 would prohibit local election officials from suspending the requirement of the Early Voting Ballot Board to verify that the signature on the mail ballot application and the signature on the mail ballot are from the voter
- SB 1113 would provide the Secretary of State the authority to withhold Chapter 19 funds if the voter registrar or elections administrator fails to remove voters who should be canceled from the voter roll in a timely manner, or in other words, putting pressure on them to purge the voter rolls
- SB 1114 would require registrars to cross-reference voter rolls and motor vehicle records where a person indicated that he or she is not a U.S. citizen, and remove ineligible voters, or in essence helping to purge the voter rolls
- SB 1115 would require all counties to observe the same early voting hours and days, prohibiting counties from expanding their hours as former Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins did last fall when he instituted the state’s first-ever 24-hour voting sites
- SB 1116 would require transparency for cities, counties, and ISDs, who maintain a website, to place on their respective websites, no more than two clicks away from their homepage, any results of their elections
It is no secret that those who have sought to disenfranchise and restrict Black people from voting clearly know the importance that voting has on every aspect of our daily lives, which is why they are doing everything in their power to prevent certain people from voting.
Voting has a profound impact on the representation, resources and power that comes with voting for those who have the power to make decisions that control the way the world works.
The Forward Times will continue to follow the “Election Integrity” bills being considered in the Texas House and Senate and we encourage everyone to remain vigilant and on the frontlines to ensure the voting rights of each and every Texan and American is protected and preserved.