Voter Suppression: Taxation Without Representation

by June 5, 2014

Educate, Organize and Mobilize: In commentaries that I wrote several months ago I likened efforts to defeat voter suppression to battling a hydra and noted that it was impossible to defeat voter suppression if you don’t know it when you see it.  Hopefully, over the course of our coverage, readers are more aware of what we’re up against and looking back will add a better perspective of where we are today.  Additionally, each week I’ll try to highlight one or two developments around voter suppression.

Recently, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote an explosive cover story in this June’s issue of The Atlantic magazine, entitled The Case for Reparations. He was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.  His simple point was that 250 years of slavery, 9 years of Jim Crow, 60 years of separate but equal and 35 years of racist housing policies all combined to create a debt owed Blacks by America and that the only way to repay that debt was through reparations.  

Implied in his story was the fact that exploitation of Blacks in America has always been intentional and designed to rob Blacks of their wealth and wealth building opportunities.  We must add voter suppression to the intentional wrongs designed to rob Blacks of their wealth and wealth building opportunities.  The simple fact is that voters decide how tax dollars are spent and victims of voter suppression are being economically exploited by being denied the right to vote.  Voter suppression really amounts to taxation without representation.

After the Supreme Court Decision last year that gutted the Voting Rights Act, Emily Badger, writing for The Atlantic Cities, addressed the fears of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  In addressing the future prospects of voter suppression, Ginsburg wrote that “Early attempts to cope with this vile infection resembled battling the Hydra.”  She said that “Whenever one form of voting discrimination was identified and prohibited, others sprang up in its place.”  (See link # 2 below).  

For an excellent discussion on what voter suppression is and what it looks like I suggest that you refer to the definition and examples provided in Wikipedia.  Wikipedia provides examples of suppression tactics in our not too distant past.  

In the 2002 New Hampshire Senate election, Republican officials attempted to reduce the number of Democratic voters by paying professional telemarketers in Idaho to make repeated hang-up calls to the telephone numbers used by the Democratic Party's ride-to-the-polls phone lines on Election Day. By tying up the lines, voters seeking rides from the Democratic Party would have more difficulty reaching the party to ask for transportation to and from their polling places.

In the 2004 Presidential Election allegations surfaced in several states that the group called Voters Outreach of America had collected and submitted Republican voter registration forms while inappropriately discarding voter registration forms where the new voter had chosen to register with the Democratic Party. Such people would believe they had registered to vote, and would only discover on Election Day that they were not registered and could not cast a ballot.

In 2010 in the Maryland gubernatorial election in 2010, the campaign of Republican candidate Bob Ehrlich hired a consultant who advised that "the first and most desired outcome is voter suppression", in the form of having "African-American voters stay home." To that end, the Republicans placed thousands of Election Day robocalls to Democratic voters, telling them that the Democratic candidate, Martin O'Malley, had won, although in fact the polls were still open for some two more hours.

On Tuesday, June 3, Mississippi used its new voter ID law for the first time, culminating a long political fight in a state with a troubled past of voting-rights suppression.  People were required to show a driver’s license or other government-issued photo identification at the polls during the Republican and Democratic primaries for U.S. House and Senate.

Mississippi voters approved a voter ID constitutional amendment in 2011, and legislators put the mandate into law in 2012. Until last summer, Mississippi and other states with a history of racial discrimination had to get federal approval for any changes to elections laws. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling erased that mandate and cleared the way for Mississippi to use its voter ID law, which had been awaiting Justice Department clearance.  I will monitor the Mississippi voter ID developments and report back to you from time to time.


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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, “Share” our articles, and your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our website  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: (

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