By Dr. Juanita Bratcher
Editor & Publisher, CopyLine Magazine
The Power of the Ballot: A Powerful Weapon to Effect Change
Abandoning the Ballot Box? Then Say Goodbye to Economic and Political Empowerment
November 8th is about some very serious business – the future of our country. The results of the Presidential Election and down- the ballot candidates for the U.S. House and Senate will determine the direction of this country for some years to come. That’s why participating in the electoral process is important and very serious business, not only for Americans but for the successful survival of this great country itself. We cannot nonchalantly stay away from the polls because of disinterest in our political structure or no interest in the candidates running.
CopyLine Magazine endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton for president some time ago because she believes in justice, fairness and equality for all Americans. And she is a credit to represent our country and its people with great pride. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is unfit to be president and will certainly divide this country, if elected. Americans don’t need Trump’s constant menu of racism and divisiveness – a man highly respected by the Alt-Right because of his demagoguery, divisive racist attitudes and tactics, and one who thinks only about himself.
So it’s very serious business that you go out to the polls and vote, and let your voices be heard in a most critical election that will play an integral role in our country’s future agenda and democracy.
Let us (African Americans) not forget the struggles of our forefathers in trying to get the right to vote in this country. The suffering, the humiliation, the tumultuous circumstances and frustration they encountered and endured in their efforts to get the right to vote in this country were overwhelming. Some died fighting for the cause.
In their efforts to register and vote, through blood, sweat and tears, to let their voices be heard at the ballot box on Election Day, they were faced with tear gas, Billy clubs, water hoses and attack dogs. They were turned away by the Bull Connors of Alabama who would deny them their right to vote as American citizens. Our forefathers fought every step of the way – “valiant and forthright” to overthrow bigotry and racism, and open up the ballot box to blacks. And they never thought about surrendering to those injustices being heaped upon them. And neither should you! Our efforts must be penetrating and remain intact.
In the spirit of our forefathers who went through some difficult and abusive times to get the right to vote in this country we must continue to pay homage to them for getting the ball rolling, holding out to the end, and doing whatever necessary to make it happen. And the idea of some to try and take it away through Voter ID laws and voter suppression is cruel and evil.
Which brings to mind Rev. George Lee, a black businessman in his courageous actions to register black voters in 1954, which ultimately cost him his life.
The family of Rev. George Lee felt the sharp emotional pains of his courageous actions to register Black voters.
Lee, a businessman and the first Black person to register to vote in Humphreys County since Reconstruction, printed and passed out leaflets urging Blacks to pay their poll tax so they could register to vote. Reportedly, incensed Whites responded by putting the names of all Blacks eligible to vote on a hit list, circulating it to white businessmen who retaliated by firing them from their jobs, denying them credit and raising their rent.
Lee knew his days were numbered for his actions, yet, ignored the pleas of his wife, Rose, to back off. On Saturday before Mother’s Day in 1955, Lee was driving home when gunfire from a passing car blew half his face off. He was shot to death on a neighborhood street May 7, 1955. Reportedly, Lee had been offered protection by white officials on the condition he would end his voter registration efforts. Notwithstanding the evidence and the fact that everybody in town knew who did it, the sheriff concluded that Lee died of unknown causes.
Medgar Evers, a warrior and civil rights leader, head of the NAACP’s Mississippi branch, was murdered June 12, 1963 by a sniper’s bullet because of his efforts to register Black voters in Mississippi.
Many of you have already cast your ballot during Early Voting, but there’re many who have not cast their ballot or have no intentions of voting. If you haven’t voted already or don’t intend to vote, I beg of you to do so no matter how convenient your circumstance.
During the 2012 Presidential General Election during Early Voting, I went to four polling places to vote because of long lines at several polling places. I finally sealed the deal on my fourth visit. But I would have gone however many times it took to get the job done.
It took four visits to the polls before I was able to cast my vote. But that didn’t matter to me how many visits it would take; I was determined to cast my vote even if it had taken 10 visits. I was determined to vote, and would not fail in my efforts to do so. There is power in the ballot and power in the people who use it.
Our vote matters
Voting is a privilege
Voting gives people a choice
Voting gives power to the people who use it
Voting is political power
When we vote we have a voice; a voice far from being silenced.
There’re some things you can never stop fighting for – and exercising your right to vote is one of them.
Our communities have a lot at stake in this election
It is important that we exercise our right to vote especially in the wake of strong efforts by Republican governors and predominantly Republican legislatures to try and suppress our voting strength through Voter ID legislation, voter registration purges, and cutting the days of early voting. It’s an assault on the right to vote.
Many states have tried to prevent Blacks from voting by enacting racist voter ID and voter suppression laws. New voter ID laws were clearly designed to make it harder for African-Americans, Latinos, older Americans and youth to vote.
Back in the day, Blacks, in their attempt to register to vote, were faced with Billy clubs, tear gas and water hoses. They were turned away by the Bull Connors of Alabama who would deny them their right to vote as American citizens. The voting climate today is the same old story of using the irrational fear of voter “fraud” as a cover-up in their mission to disenfranchise eligible voters. The truth is, voter fraud is exceedingly rare.
Even after some Blacks gained the right to vote, they were afraid to go to the polls due to intimidation, violence and fear. And today, Republicans are using voter ID laws and eliminating early voting to deliberately intimidate and restrict the rights of Blacks, Latinos and minority groups across America to vote.
“There should never be barriers set-up to stop people from exercising their constitutional right to vote in this country,” said Juanita Bratcher, Editor & Publisher of www.copylinemagazine.com.”We cannot and will not go back to the dark era of yesteryear when certain citizens could not vote in this country. We must fight tooth and nail, every step of the way, to extinguish efforts by some who would try to disenfranchise voters ‘constitutional right to the ballot box.”
According to documented history, 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.
In their efforts to register to vote, Blacks encountered various barriers. They faced hostile law enforcement officials that were indifferent to their being there to register in the first place. They were faced with literacy tests designed to make it difficult and deny them the right to register to vote. It was established by the U.S. Justice Department that in many counties the tests were administered unfairly. And at that time, voting was mostly under state control.
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 the 2012 Presidential Election, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, at a Republican State Committee meeting, confidently and arrogantly declared that Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law would allow Republican Candidate Mitt Romney a win in the State of Pennsylvania.
Pointing out his legislative accomplishments, Voter ID being one of them, Turzai told Committee members that with Voter ID, winning the state was a done-deal for Romney.
Said Turzai: “Voter ID, which is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania…done.”
However, Turzai’s well-laid out plans were crushed when a federal judge halted the Voter ID law to take place in the November 6 election.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson delayed the implementation of the law until after the November 6 election. He agreed with opponents of the measure that requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls could disenfranchise some voters, although Republicans said the law was put in place to prevent voter fraud. Voters can be asked for photo ID but cannot be barred from voting without it.
Many suppressive methods used to assault voters’ rights occurred after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted parts of the Voting Rights Act.
Republicans in states around the country must be resoundingly stopped from enacting racist voter ID and voter suppression laws to make it harder for some to vote – African Americans, Latinos, other minorities, older people and the youth from voting.
It is much more difficult for people of color, the elderly, youth and low-income citizens to cast their ballots now, and more likely than not to be disenfranchised and discriminated against.
The Voting Rights Act Itself Has Been Weakened
The Supreme Court’s Shelby County vs. Holder decision completely gutted the Voting Rights Act and left millions of Americans voting rights in jeopardy. Voting Rights must be protected by passing the Voting Rights Amendment Act.”
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (which gives the Justice Department the authority to review and throw out discriminatory voting restrictions) was revoked recently in the Supreme Court ruling.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act, after gutting its effectiveness, made clear that Congress has the authority and obligation to fix the VRA; of protecting the fundamental right to vote.
Congress has the power to address the problem of discrimination in voting. Many believe that the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 could help restore the protections lost with the Supreme Court’s ruling last year, but the Act has not gotten off the ground.
Congress to Pass an Updated Version of the Voting Rights Act
The weakening of VRA left millions of Americans vulnerable to discriminatory state laws. To not participate in the election or not get involved shuns our democracy and way of life.
In North Carolina, for example, the local government was able to eliminate early voting and same day registration, preventing 300,000 citizens from voting through these methods. The margin of victory for the North Carolina Senate race was 48,000 votes, meaning that those discriminatory practices undeniably influenced the election.
The Voting Rights Amendment Act would fix Section 5, one of the strongest tools to fight voter suppression efforts and update the formula for determining which states and municipalities would need from the Department of Justice’s pre-approval to change their voting laws.
All Americans should have an equal opportunity to participate in our country’s Democratic process. But it’s incumbent upon voters to participate in our democracy.
It is of the utmost importance that African-Americans and all other Americans exercise their right to vote. African Americans must understand the meaning of political power… political empowerment, keep a vigilant eye on what is happening politically in our country, and let their voices be heard through the ballot box on Election Day.
I urge all American voters to participate in the electoral process and vote for the candidate (s) of their choice. Remember, participating in the democratic process of this country is very serious business.
Remember, Republican nominee Donald Trump and his white supremacist backers’ divisive and mean-spirited politics and Trump’s bullying, erratic temperament are certainly not good for America.
Juanita Bratcher is an Award-Winning Journalist, the Publisher of www.copylinemagazine.com and the author of several books, songwriter and poet. She has been a Journalist for more than 40 years covering politics, education and a wide-range of other topics.