New Rules Threaten Black Voting Rights

15 Feb New Rules Threaten Black Voting Rights

By The Rev. Al Sharpton
Special to The Movement

Rev. Al Sharpton

Even after Blacks won the right to vote after slavery, covert tactics such as poll taxes and literacy requirements purposefully excluded Blacks from many elections, especially in the South. Following the elimination of such draconian laws and the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, civil rights groups and community organizers worked tirelessly to register voters and encourage citizens to vote.

But now, in perhaps the greatest setback to voting rights since Reconstruction, we are witnessing suppression and intimidation tactics designed to once again target and silence racial minorities, the poor, young people and the elderly. Whether we live in a massive metropolis like Los Angeles or a small town in Arkansas, everyone needs to pay attention before we are barred from the very right for which so many of us died.

For years, most states accepted items such as utility bills and bank statements as forms of identification for voting.  Now, a non-expired photo ID is required in several states such as Alabama, Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Mississippi. Many more states have similar measures on the table, and at least five states—including notorious Florida—passed laws reducing early voting, while others are eliminating same day registration.

In 2008, all of us witnessed historic voter turnout as Blacks, Latinos, young folks and others came out in record numbers and helped propel President Obama into office. Obama inspired millions to stand in line for hours in order to participate in our democratic process.

And it’s those sheer numbers that have Republicans running scared. Because they know that they simply cannot win by playing by the rules, the right wing has resorted to bullying and modern-day poll taxes with these new voter ID laws.

In many poor and rural areas, people do not possess a photo ID like a driver’s license. They simply do not drive or own a vehicle. It is difficult to obtain even a “free” state-issued ID because it requires individuals to take off work, lose wages and find transportation to the DMV.

Whether or not we grew up in the South, most of us have family or friends who still reside there. Because these new voter ID laws are consciously targeting the South once again, all of us—regardless of where we live—should make it our duty to inform people living in those areas directly impacted by voter suppression.

We must be aware of these maneuvers. Let’s remind one another just how important voting is; let’s make sure our neighbors, family and friends are registered; and let’s make sure we get one another to the polls on Election Day.

As our nation continues to diversify and progress, let’s not for a moment think that those with regressive agendas are not plotting new ways to hold us back.  After all, it may be the South primarily now, but tomorrow it could just as easily be L.A.

The Rev. Al Sharpton is president of the National Action Network and host of PoliticsNation on MSNBC daily at 6 p.m. Follow him on Twitter @thereval

Editor’s Note: On Thursday, Feb. 16, the National Action Network and Rev. Al Sharpton announced the Selma to Montgomery March from March 4-9, 2012 to protest voter suppression legislation. Click here for more details.

  • Antonio Merrick
    Posted at 08:35h, 17 February Reply

    History will show that the biggest mistake that black civil right leaders and organizations made was not being nonpartisan enough. As a true 501c (3) or 501c (4) organization, civil right leaders and organizations should have stayed in the middle politically. History will show that going from a 501c to a 527 organization without giving black America a clear option has destroyed black communities across America. It is only a matter of time the truth will come out because it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand my arguments. We live in a representative form of democracy and as the representatives and voices for black America for the past 60 years; you all are responsible for the outcomes. Again, only a matter of time you all will be voted off the island.

  • Antonio Merrick
    Posted at 08:53h, 17 February Reply

    P.S. Here is a prime example on why you all do not represent black America anymore. Your biggest concern is the fact that states are requiring ID to vote when the greatest issues that is facing black America is the high unemployment rates. However, in reality, you need ID and a social security card for tax purposes for employment. With that said, politics is the only reason why this ID matter is an issues and not Civil Rights.

    • John M.
      Posted at 14:54h, 17 February Reply

      Re: P.S….

      In Mr. Sharpton’s words “As our nation continues to diversify and progress, let’s not for a moment think that those with regressive agendas are not plotting new ways to hold us back.” How is diversity and progress held back by identifying ourselves? Isn’t that what we all want, an identify, a voice, recognition? We has humans want equal treatment, including doing things that require an effort, like getting an I.D., voting? No, let’s let regressive agendas hold us back, let’s not get an I.D. I think I’ll begin signing my name with a simple X from now on, too.

  • Ken
    Posted at 08:59h, 17 February Reply

    The mans an idiot. If people dont have an ID they just need to get one, every state has non drivers ID’s available & I’m sure they are free if you truly cant afford it. At least Rev Sharptactics admits that the ONLY reason Obama won was because people who never vote came out in droves to vote for him ONLY BECAUSE HES BLACK. Now just how racist is that? At any rate once Obama loses in Nov those people still wont likely need IDs because most will never vote again. Its truly a shame that someone manipulates ignorant people in the name of racial equality to conduct his own personal campaign of racism. Shame on you Rev Sharpton.

    • Ness
      Posted at 12:38h, 22 February Reply

      The problem, Ken, is that we got tired of voting for white men all the time. Even though I voted for the POTUS, I would have NEVER voted for Herm Cain 9 9 9 yeah right…

  • Carrie Villela
    Posted at 23:28h, 17 February Reply

    I have heard this argument over whether or not to ‘force’ us to meet a modicum of criteria to vote. Simply put, without proving one’s identity a person could vote multiple times (à la ACORN).

    This would simply be a method of decreasing voter fraud, which even Democratic strategists admit exists (Bob Beckel for one). Voting is such an awesome responsibility — treat it with a little respect please and GET YOURSELF ONE PHOTO ID from your DMV or your local check cashing center. That’s where I got my first picture ID, the check cashing agency gave me one. If you are employed, you’ll have a DMV ID and/or social security card already, and if you’re not employed it’s probably because of the current administration’s policies. This should tell you to NOT vote Democrat again.

    Regardless, there are many places to obtain an ID card, and anyone over the age of fifteen ought to have one just because of normal day-to-day needs. This is a false issue, pumped up by partisanship.

  • Namtasha Bunting
    Posted at 08:22h, 18 February Reply

    I think the best way is to use the same methods being used in underdeveloped countries on voter registration. Educate, educate, educate. There are training modules that can be tailored to a given environment that will help people learn their rights, options and know when these rights are being denied and what course to follow.

  • Cynthia Graham
    Posted at 16:50h, 20 February Reply

    PRAISE GOD REV. AL SHARPTON: Thank you for being “THE VOICE that YOU ARE.” Confession: At a point in my young adult years, I believed you were a very arrogant ‘black’ man. Your tone of voice, your fixed stern look, mere hearsay from others and -sad to say- my ignorance of you and your ministry, led me to such a belief. I apologize….This ‘black’ woman is older and wiser. I see things clearer now. As a young man…You lived “THE MOVEMENT.” Now I see why -the tone of voice- I see why – the stern look. I also hear cleary a motto I’ve grown to live by, which was something taught to me from my then Junior High School daughter – “I am better than no one and no one is better than I am.” Thank You Reverend for being the
    B L A C K man that you are. Continue to B e L oud A nd C orrect K inship – Even our sick kin. I stand corrected.


  • Nathaniel Ali
    Posted at 18:01h, 20 February Reply

    The reason for these tactics is because the powers that be are pulling all stops to disenfranchise Blacks from voting just as outlined in the 14th amendment. That is why there is such a viscous attack on young people to be convicted of a felony before the age of 18. So their voting power will be nullified in the future. The only way to identify that is by a show of I.D.

  • Ronald Drummond
    Posted at 20:02h, 22 February Reply

    As I sat here and read this article, I am so amazed at how we as a people are still not considered to be people here this so-called free country of ours. I am also amazed that so many of our people don’t realize that our RIGHT TO VOTE, is and act that has to be voted on every twenty-five years or so. We have people who come to this country and are declared citizens after seven years and they have more rights then we do, those of us who were born and raised in this country of ours. Today sit here and look at my daughters and wonder what will this situation end up being by the time they are able to vote… WILL THEY BE ABLE TO?????

  • Ronald Drummond
    Posted at 20:06h, 22 February Reply

    RIGHT TO VOTE( should read) is an ACT and Must be Voted on every TWENTY-FIVE YEARS…..

  • marcus walls
    Posted at 16:56h, 27 February Reply

    I reside in Texas> and the state of Texas are putting so many hurdles up to jump through to vote, that it is going to be difficult to cast a vote. Please help us form some kind of resistance party. My mother and father that lived through the jim crow down in Louisiana and Arkansas and suggest, that on election day we form groups that peacefully surround the white voting areas while they vote inside. (with signs that say if we can’t vote no one should be able to vote). This will show them how it feels to have hurdles put up. Just a suggestion of a way to protest this injustice.

  • Armstrong
    Posted at 09:56h, 29 February Reply

    This is the result of Willie Lynches Letter. We should all read it & you will understand why our time is up to vote. They gave us enough time to do what we should have done. In that time phrame, we were thwarted from the real picture w/lifes entertainment. So now we’re expecting the country to understand this as another stubbling block when it was the original plan from the start. There was always a time limit for Black People to vote. We just didn’t keep our families grounded enough to stay focus on the situation @ hand. We are ignorant to the bare facts. Now you can pity cry or you can do the best that you can to get the information you need to stay afloat. Once your in the game you can choose to do something about it or not. Whatever, just know that no one is exempt. Everyone is affected so please don’t ever feel that you’re alone. Because you are not.

  • Fay Winston
    Posted at 07:01h, 01 March Reply

    I have never seen so much hatred among the republican party till president Obama took office. That is why it is so important that we and race stand behind our president. It is 2012 fo god sake! The tactics that these states are pulling just goes to show you that we still have a long way to go as far as equallity.

    • james madison
      Posted at 09:29h, 01 March Reply

      Obama had the opportunity to be president – he himself said that if he could not get things turned around in the first term, then he would be a one term president. I for one, being black am happy he had the opportunity – but am sadly disappointed on how he’s handled many issues… from bowing to an Saudi King, to not going to church on Easter, to not responding for 35 days when the oil exploded in the Gulf of Mexico… and I could go on.

      If this is what we’ve experienced in the first term, I could not want to see any more of it in the future. I know I’ll not vote for him again.

  • james madison
    Posted at 09:24h, 01 March Reply

    I just have on question of all of you who disagree with voter ID law: Have you actually READ ANY OF THE PROPOSED LAWS? They actually promote voter registration and protect voting rights for ALL. More importantly, these laws protect US CITIZENS rights.

    Let me ask you: Do you think illegal immigrates should vote? There is no other country in the world where this is even an issue. They Should Not Vote without citizenship. Period.

    The laws enacted and suggested are FOR THIS PURPOSE – no other purpose. But if you would read some of the proposed laws, you’d see this for yourself.

    Last Question: IF you think that Sharpton is going to benefit from not upsetting us blacks – what do you think he’ll gain by it?

  • sandy
    Posted at 14:21h, 01 March Reply

    There are several point of views to incorporate when speaking of politics and or voters rights. Mr. Sharpton is the voice of the Black America. I do not believe that he is racist i just believe that he is speaking from a black persons point of view. Now if you never been without a drivers license and you always had transportation you will never understand where he is coming from. Even though implementing these new voters laws might not be a ploy to discourage blacks and minorities not to vote, it damn-sure looks that way when the majority of people that was using everything except a state ID to vote is coincidentally minorities and/or BLACK. So it is necessary to takes steps and protect anything that we feel is threatening our rights because our ancestors died for them. Not paying attention is what got us to slavery anyhow. Al is smart to act on this and I respect this Move.

    • james madison
      Posted at 20:24h, 01 March Reply

      Sandy – I understand that we as blacks have had to deal with many hardships – but is it wrong for us to be better and do more and have the right to vote legally than jeopardize our rights contrasted that those who had not to endure the hardships of African Americans? Illegal immigrants will do that if THEY are not REQUIRED to show they’ve earned the right – would you disagree or would you agree?

  • Corrine Days
    Posted at 11:55h, 07 March Reply

    Rev. Al will you be taking up any kind of donation for photo iD’s purchasing for the Seniors, minorities and students? I don’t have much but I want to donate each month.

  • Fortune Dane
    Posted at 13:23h, 07 March Reply

    Put a check mark into a box to prove YOU ARE human? That’s a new twist.

    These new Voter ID laws are ALL coincidentally being rammed through Republican led state legislators to simply suppress the vote. No one has produced evidence there is enough fraudulent voting to PROVE beyond a shadow of the doubt that any candidate has lost an election due to people voting multiple times or being defeated by dead or imaginary voters. Nor can these Republican legislators explain why it is necessary to curb early voting or eliminating same day registrations from voting. Or what about keeping college kids from voting at their campus even though they are legally registered with the campus. Or telling students they can’t use their campus ID to use to vote. If we are a democracy that believes every vote counts why aren’t we working to get MORE people rather than less involved in the voting process?

    Lack of an ID card is a poor excuse to take away a basic right afforded to all Americans. Especially when we are fighting wars in other countries and giving others the right to vote and they just leave their polling place with ink on their thumbs.

    These Voter ID laws are ripe for legal challenge because of this basic question, “How can you change what’s required or needed to vote, without first changing how voters register to vote?” If I’m already a registered voter in my state, how can you change the rules AFTER I have a voter registration card? If you want to require photo identification in order for me to vote, why doesn’t my voter registration card become a photo ID?

    Voter fraud is much more likely to occur from a clerk that doesn’t accurately count or record the voting results after the polls close than having individuals trying to vote 10 or more times in one election.

    Thank you Rev. Sharpton for being willing to put this issue in the public debate and conscious. If President Obama tried to curb who votes and who doesn’t get to vote could you imagine the outrage from the Right?

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