It’s now 156 years after the Civil War and 56 years after the Civil Rights Movement won the Voting Rights Act, but the voting rights of Black people in this country are still under attack. The mass media has focused on Georgia, where the state legislature passed a law and the governor signed it, making it harder to vote in a variety of ways. In practice, the new rules are likely to limit the votes of Black people more than those of whites.
In recent years, many people have found it easier to vote because of new early voting and absentee voting policies. But these and related policies are at risk of being rolled back in many states.
The mass media have focused on Georgia largely because Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines, both based in Georgia, criticized the law after it was passed. And Major League Baseball, which had scheduled this year’s All-Star Game in Atlanta, canceled its commitment and moved the game to Denver. These big corporations didn’t have much to say about the bill before it became law. But when they saw local and nationwide backlash that could affect their profits, they decided to pose as fearless advocates of democratic rights.
The whole thing is really about the Democrats and Republicans fighting for political power. These days Republicans expect People of Color, especially African Americans, to be more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans. So the Republicans are often pushing voting law changes to limit voting rights where they can get away with it.
In fact, Georgia is hardly the only state where this is happening. Today Republicans control most of the state legislatures and governors’ offices. Since last November’s elections, politicians across the country have proposed at least 361 bills to make it harder to vote.
In March, as the Supreme Court was hearing cases about voter suppression, an attorney for the Arizona Republican Party, Michael Carvin openly admitted the strategy behind Republican efforts to suppress votes. When asked about voter suppression laws, he explained they were necessary to defeat the Democrats, saying that without them “it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats. Politics is a zero-sum game.”
Of course, these laws and bills don’t have language that openly says they are discriminating by race. But some of the provisions of the Georgia law give a sense of what they are doing, for example:
- Making it harder to get an absentee ballot;
- Outlawing bringing food or water to voters standing in line at the polls; and
- Giving Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature more power over how elections are run.
The bosses and their politicians love to say that the U.S. is the most democratic country in the world. But they are trying – and for the moment succeeding in some parts of the country – to take away our rights to vote.
The big-money businesses and financial institutions still control both of the mainstream parties. They generally tell us which candidates we have to choose between. And almost never are they ordinary working people or poor people.
To solve our problems, we have to do more than vote. We have to come up with our own solutions and not depend on the bosses’ politicians. But we can’t let them push us backwards in the direction of a time when only white men who owned property could vote. We have to defend the civil rights gains we have won and fight against any racist attempts to take them away.