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A 96-year-old woman was denied the right to a free voter ID in Tennessee because she couldn’t come up with a marriage certificate. State Governments’ Voter ID laws stand to disenfranchise millions of voters in the 2012 Election. Something must be done to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised and federal laws are not being violated

 

By Juanita Bratcher

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Dorothy Cooper, a 96-year-old African American woman was denied the right to a free voter ID in Tennessee because she couldn’t come up with a marriage certificate. This, after having voted seven decades without any problems, even during the Jim Crow years. What a sad commentary on voting rights in this country. Obviously, it could be the beginning of denials for millions of other voters in states around the country due to new voter ID laws put in place since the 2008 Presidential Election.

Cooper, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, even after presenting documents to the clerk at the Cherokee Boulevard Drivers Service Center in Tennessee that included her birth certificate, voter registration card and lease, was asked for a marriage certificate, which she didn’t have. According to reports, there are 126,000 seniors in Tennessee that don’t have photo IDs.

Tennessee Republicans passed the new voter identification law earlier this year requiring Tennesseans to have government-issued photo IDs to vote.

Reportedly, there are about 34 to 37 states that have switched to Voter IDs. States that require photo IDs are Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan and South Dakota.

States that require ID but photos not required, are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah.

In a recently released report, “Voting Law Changes in 2012”, by the Brennan Center for Justice (at New York University School of Law), authored by Wendy R. Weiser and Lawrence Norden, it noted that “these new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities.”

Brennan’s Executive Summary points out the following:

This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election. Based on the Brennan Center’s analysis of the 19 laws and two executive actions that passed in 14 states, it is clear that:

  • These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.
  • The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
  • Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, five have already cut back on voting rights (and may pass additional restrictive legislation), and two more are currently considering new restrictions.

U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) at a news conference in Nashville, Tennessee last month, said the voter ID laws passed in Tennessee and other states this year should be re-examined by the Supreme Court, adding that the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice should consider challenging the voter ID laws as to whether it disenfranchises voters.

But opponents of voter IDs said it is being used as a means to suppress the vote, will make it harder to cast a ballot, and as a result would disenfranchise the elderly, young, poor, Hispanics and African-American voters.

In my yet to be released book, “Lest We Never Forget: The Power of the Ballot,” I traced the early years in this country when African Americans and women could not vote in America. I also discussed Jim Crow and obstacles put in place to slow down voter registration or stop voter registration all together for African Americans. That was a grave time, a shameful time in American history that should never have happened and certainly should never show its face again. Yet, these voting laws have the potential of disenfranchising certain of voters.

“African Americans encountered various barriers in their efforts to get the right to vote in America – hostile law enforcement officials that were indifferent to them having the audacity to pursue their goal of being added to the registration rolls, insulting literacy tests designed to be difficult, to deny them the right to vote, and the Grandfather’s clause and poll taxes. Voting was mostly under state control. The U.S. Justice Department established that in many counties the tests were administered unfairly,” my book points out.

“There were consequences. In their efforts to register to vote, African Americans encountered various barriers. They faced tear gas, Billy Clubs, water hoses and insulting remarks, in their attempt to register to vote. They were turned back by the ‘Bull Connors’ of Alabama who wanted to deny them the right to vote. The poll tax was used as a barrier in many southern states where Blacks were excluded from the voting booth. Poll taxes were a suffrage pre-requisite by eleven ex-confederate states. And Blacks were the intended victims.

“During voter registration drives in Alabama, when African Americans showed up at the registrar’s office to register, registrars would conduct slowdown days to frustrate or delay their efforts,” the book states.

“The poll tax,” according to a member of the 1890 Mississippi Constitutional Convention’s Franchise Committee, was ‘the most effective instrumentality of Negro disenfranchisement.’ One woman talked about her father paying a $45 poll tax and having to eat a little less because of it, while others chose to eat rather than vote.

The price black forefathers had to pay to get the right to vote:

(These are points made in my unreleased book)

  • They were confronted with vicious dogs wagging their tails, ready to attack
  • They faced racist police officers carrying Billy Clubs, at times being used on them at full force
  • During peaceful demonstrations, protesters were hauled off in paddy wagons, simply because they wanted to register to vote
  • Fire hoses were turned on them at great force
  • Whips were popping
  • Tear gas was let loose
  • Some were abused and suffered beatings at the hand of racist police officers
  • Some made the ultimate sacrifice – death

“In 1965, in a brief statement to the press, Dr. King said: ‘In the past year Negroes have been beaten by Sheriff Clark and his posse, they have been fired from their jobs, they have been victimized by the slow registration procedure and the difficult literacy test, all because they have attempted to vote.’

“The Voting Rights Act empowered the U.S. Attorney General to replace local registrars with federal registrars in areas where discrimination was present. State literacy tests were banned. Anyone over the age of 21 could legally register to vote. In 1966, poll taxes were also prohibited with ratification of the 24th Amendment.

“Many states prevented Blacks from voting. And even after some Blacks gained the right to vote, they were afraid to go to the polls due to intimidation, violence and fear.

All of these facts and much more are outlined in my book.

Voter ID laws must not be used to disenfranchise voters. And the U.S. Justice Department should use the power of its office to make sure that it doesn’t happen…that no federal laws are being violated in regards to the Voting Rights Act and other laws pertaining to the rights of citizens to vote in America.

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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