Monday, September 12, 2005

Another Blast from the Past

One of the lessons of the multilayered tragedy of Hurricane Katrina is that there is still a great chasm between the rich and the poor and between whites and blacks. The media designation of Blacks carrying groceries from a store as 'looting', whereas whites carrying groceries from the same store as 'finding' is a good, if horrifying, example of some of the not so latent racism that still exists in American society.

Now comes word of an open scheme to further divide people, and it goes to the heart of democracy: a thinly veiled 'poll tax.' From the NY Times:

In 1966, the Supreme Court held that the poll tax was unconstitutional. Nearly 40 years later, Georgia is still charging people to vote, this time with a new voter ID law that requires many people without driver's licenses - a group that is disproportionately poor, black and elderly - to pay $20 or more for a state ID card. Georgia went ahead with this even though there is not a single place in the entire city of Atlanta where the cards are sold. The law is a national disgrace.

The Republicans who pushed the law through, and Gov. Sonny Perdue, also a Republican, who signed it, say that it is intended to prevent fraud. But it seems clear that it is about keeping certain people away from the polls, for political advantage. The vast majority of fraud complaints in Georgia, according to its secretary of state, Cathy Cox, involve absentee ballots, which are unaffected by the new law. Ms. Cox says she is unaware of a single documented case in recent years of fraud through impersonation of a voter at the polls.
[Emphasis added]

In the 2000 presidential election, many Blacks in Florida complained that their votes weren't counted because they were frightened away from the polls, or challenged unfairly once inside. There are also claims of irregularities in Black voting patterns in the 2004 presidential election in Ohio. Additionally, there is the often unstated, yet certainly extant use of the "Southern Strategy" by the Republican Party. It appears that yet another way to keep Black American voters from exercising their rights has been discovered.

The American Civil Liberties Union is planning to challenge Georgia's law. It will have several strong legal claims, starting with the 24th Amendment. The Supreme Court said in 1966, in striking down the poll tax, that "the right to vote is too precious, too fundamental to be so burdened." It still is.



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5:01 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

You are a brilliant writer. Thanks for the gift of your insight and words.

5:10 AM  
Blogger Elmo said...

Once judge Roberts is heading up the Supreme Court, they wont have to be sneaky anymore. Maybe we'll go back to having to own land in order to vote...

7:38 AM  

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