“Voter Suppression” is Racist; We Need to Fight Back

A protest against legislation restricting voting rights at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta. (Nicole Craine/The New York Times)

Earlier this spring, Coca Cola, Delta Airlines, and Major League Baseball (MLB) all made headlines by criticizing Georgia’s new voting law that tries to make it harder for Black voters to cast their ballots. MLB even canceled the All-Star Game in Atlanta and rescheduled it to take place in Denver. But businesses that think that taking a stand on voting rights will benefit them and their bottom line could have their hands full in 46 of the other 49 states , which have similar legislation in various stages of development.

These attacks on the rights of Black voters and other voters of color are generally pushed by Republican politicians these days. But a number of civil rights activists are saying that the Democratic Party has been way behind on this issue, one of many that the Obama-Biden administration could have addressed years ago—but didn’t—when the Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress in 2009-2010. But they seemed satisfied that things were going their way. Then, in 2013, the Supreme Court overturned key sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, opening the legal door for racist legislators to carry out their attacks.

Now, with a slim majority in the House of Representatives and a 50-50 split in the Senate, the Democrats see the racist assault on voting rights focusing on the states, where the Republicans have 27 governors to the Democrats 23 and the Republicans control over 60% of the legislatures.

Besides Georgia, other states that are most likely to undermine Black voters’ legal voting rights are Arizona, Florida, and Texas. The Florida House of Representatives has just passed a bill that will likely win the state senate and Governor Ron DeSantis’s approval. The bill includes new I.D. requirements, more restricted use of drop boxes, and a ban on people bringing food and water “with the intent to influence” people waiting in long lines to vote.

That’s not all. Potentially making matters more favorable to the Republicans, the recently published results of last year’s census will give two additional seats in Congress to Texas and one each to Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon. Meanwhile, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will each lose a seat.  This doesn’t in itself tell us how much impact there will be on Democrat and Republican numbers in Congress, but the census also gives state governments, mostly dominated by Republicans, the chance to rewrite Congressional district lines. In a country where the non-Hispanic white portion of the population is less than 60% and falling, the political rules written by white, property-owning men (including slaveowners) are still holding us down today.

Any move to take away “small d” democratic rights is a step towards the Jim Crow past, and we need to fight to keep what the Civil Rights Movement won.

At the same time, we need to recognize that, even with the victories of the Civil Rights Movement, we still have a system that forces us to choose between two parties, both of which are controlled by the moneybags of the One Percent. We need to make our own politics—politics that benefit ordinary people, that make it possible for the 99 Percent to challenge the racism that divides us and to fight for a decent life for everyone.