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Voter Suppression: An Existential Threat to Democracy

Written by Peter Grear on 01 August 2014.

Educate, Organize and Mobilize: Since November of 2013 I’ve been writing about voter suppression and addressing the subject from many different angles.  We’re now in the mobilization phase of defeating voter suppression and I’ve been encouraged to outline an effective, understandable speech that can be used as a tool or guide for others that are speaking out against voter suppression as we head to the November General Election. To be effective a presentation should minimally address educating, organizing and mobilizing voters in the Campaign to Defeat Voter Suppression.  We must speak this truth to power and to do so we must have a basic understanding of voter suppression.

To properly understand where we are today, we must look to history, to Black Slavery.  Slavery has existed since the time of ancient civilizations and in its inception was based upon conquerors enslaving the conquered without regards to race.  However, during the centuries of the European dominated African Slave Trade, a decision was made by them to use race as a basis of slavery and to enslave Black People.

When Black People became the target for the slave class in America the question of whether or not slaves would have the right to vote became an issue.  Enfranchising is the granting of the right to vote, a right of citizenship.  Efforts made to prevent citizens from voting are known as disenfranchisement.  During the founding of America, slavery was legal and after furious, contentious debates, the decision was made to deny slaves citizenship and therefore the right to vote.  Denying a citizen the right to vote destroys the fundamental principle of democracy.  Therefore, an ongoing effort to disenfranchise Black Citizens and others represents an existential threat to American Democracy.

Historically, there were other impediments to voting by citizens and each additional impediment made America less of a democracy.  However, for now those other impediments are beyond the scope of our current consideration.  After the Civil War freed slaves, the victorious North extended them citizenship and therefore the right to vote.  Since Black People, former slaves, gained the rights of citizenship including the right to vote, voter suppression has been, as it is today, an existential threat to their enfranchisement.   

In today’s political world the threat to Black Voters and voting power has been extended to the other components of the “Obama Coalition;” women, Latinos and young people.  After all, they did have the temerity to become a part of the coalition that elected America’s first Black President.  Therefore, in the eyes of the voter suppression advocates, they too must be disenfranchised.   The disenfranchisement of the Obama Coalition has been and is a relentless pursuit of Republican dominated and Koch Brother (ALEC) financed legislatures in more than 30 state legislatures around the country.  This too I’ve written about in previous articles

In an earlier commentary I discussed the necessity of understanding what voter suppression is so that you’ll know it when you see it.  (See link # 2 below).  In that article I referred readers to the Wikipedia definition of voter suppression.  However, since we’ve been covering this topic we’ve been made aware of numerous other voter suppression tactics that we had not previously recognized or considered.  It is important that we develop an ongoing process of identifying and documenting as many suppression tactics and schemes as we can.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating; “The threat of voter suppression is the gravest threat to the Black Community in more than 50 years.”

As the threat of voter suppression continues to grow, the Black Community and others threatened or concerned by this immoral, un-democratic plague are organizing and marshalling their forces to defeat it.  Various entities, including the NAACP, the Advancement Project, the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the US Justice Department, and others, have filed lawsuits and spoken out around the country in efforts to defeat voter suppression.  To date, these efforts have had inconsistent results.  However, the awareness of the existential threat is growing and so is the resistance.

As a statement of caution, I’ll reiterate what I’ve said in the past:  Nothing that happens in the courts between now and November will negate the need of our Black Community for a massive voter turnout on November 4th.

Organized responses have resulted in many community activists and organizations developing various strategies to defeat voter suppression.  Many, led by the NC NAACP have taken to the streets under the banner of the Moral Monday Movement and are engaged in efforts to register new voters, help those without acceptable ID to get valid ID and engaging in various other political and non-partisan campaigns of resistance.  Whether these efforts will succeed in the end will depend on voter turnout in response to the so called Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA), which should be known as the Voter Suppression Act of 2013 and whether the advocates of voter suppression are defeated.  

In past commentaries, as we’ve moved to the mobilization phase in our Campaign to Defeat Voter Suppression, I’ve identified two major non-partisan organizations in North Carolina that I’ve suggested working with going toward November.  They are the NC NAACP and Democracy NC. (See links 3 & 4 below).  Please add to your consideration the many churches, sororities, fraternities and local communities based organizations that share your common concerns, needs and desires.  If all else fails, go it alone and issue your call to action by sending copies of my commentaries to your friends and email lists.

This commentary is written as a blueprint or outline to be used by those that may need a little context to help in adding their voices to our campaign.  I suggest that every concerned community convene meetings, with a designated speaker, to address voting rights and to use this blueprint as a part of the content for the speech.  I would love to hear from the speakers, before and after their presentations.  As we educate, organize and mobilize our communities, we must consolidate and share our experiences.

All candidates, elected officials and others that believe in and benefit from the segments of our population that have been targeted for voter suppression, owe it to eligible voters to become actively involved in helping to educate, organize and mobilize for a massive November turn-out.  Of course, I continue to recommend my weekly commentaries (See link # 5 below) and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/votersuppression for education, organization and mobilization content on voter suppression.

Lastly, please remember to support the efforts of Greater Diversity News (GDN) in its Campaign to Defeat Voter Suppression.  GDN has the same financial needs for staff and resources as candidates, parties and other interest groups.  GDN’s only sources of revenue are subscriptions and advertising.  To that end, I encourage you to subscribe to GDN’s publications, ask your elected officials to subscribe and ask them to ensure that their public bodies use Greater Diversity News to advertise their jobs, construction and business opportunities as outreach to workers, contractors and vendors. 

 

GDN covers news that is vital to unrepresented and underserved communities we need your financial support to help us remain viable.

Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News with a primary focus on voter suppression.  To join the campaign to defeat voter suppression please “Like” and follow us at www.facebook.com/votersuppression, “Share” our articles, and your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our website www.GreaterDiversity.com.  Also, to promote the campaign to defeat voter suppression, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to follow the above-referenced recommendations. Additionally, please follow us on Twitter at @yourrighttovote: (https://twitter.com/yourrighttovote)