A tape released this week nabs Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp worrying aloud that people of color – “and others that are sitting on the sidelines” - may be registering to vote in higher numbers.
“Democrats,” Kemp said at a Republican event on July 12, “are working hard … registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines. If they can do that, they can win these in elections in November.”
Kemp gets that people of color have long been marginalized in our electoral process. It seems he’d like to keep it that way.
Sadly, such sentiments abound. In 2014. In this country. They’re held by elected officials sworn to apply our laws equally to everyone, not just those of their political affiliation.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was implemented to end racial discrimination in registration and voting. Many may recall that last year, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court effectively did away with Section 5 of the law, which required states and jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination – including Georgia - to submit all proposed changes in their voting practices to the Department of Justice or a federal appeals court for “preclearance” before implementation.
Chief Justice John Roberts, author of the majority opinion in Shelby, acknowledged that “no one doubts” the existence of voting discrimination today. Yet the Court’s decision has done nothing but exacerbate that state of affairs. Since Shelby, several states, in domino effect, have passed and implemented laws – limiting early voting, eliminating Election Day voter registration, and others – that likely will keep millions of Americans of color, along with young and low income voters of all races, away from the polls. These, of course, are the groups that have benefited most from previous electoral reforms.
Georgia already has taken advantage of the shifting legal landscape. Soon after Shelby was decided, Augusta, a city with a large African-American population, changed the dates of its municipal elections, dramatically lowering turnout. Rural Greene County, east of Atlanta, implemented a redistricting plan that the Department of Justice had previously blocked as having discriminatory effects. Add these changes to an already-reduced early voting period -- from 45 to 21 days -- and the imposition of a restrictive ID requirement and things are not looking too voter-friendly in the Peach State.
Kemp now worries that even with these suppressive measures in place, new voters – who could potentially upset the political status quo – may make it to the polls.
This is partisan politics at its worst. However, it’s no surprise that as our political system continues to bloat with an influx of dollars from the wealthy few, voters of less means – often people of color, seniors, and youth – continue to be sidelined. Those worried about how these Americans may vote are doing whatever it takes to keep them away on Election Day.
It’s unacceptable. And it’s un-American.
That’s why Congress must restore the protections previously in place and enact the Voting Rights Amendment Act – a modern, more flexible approach to ensuring that no state discriminates against any voter. Contact your representative today to urge adoption of the act, and help dismantle prejudice at the polls.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections
Tags: Voting Rights