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‘Enough is Enough. VOTE!’: History will not look kindly on 21st century Jim Crow

MARC H. MORIAL | 10/28/2018, 11:20 p.m.
“After years of preclearance and expansion of voting access, by 2013 African American registration and turnout rates had finally reached ...

National Urban League

“After years of preclearance and expansion of voting access, by 2013 African American registration and turnout rates had finally reached near-parity with White registration and turnout rates. African Americans were poised to act as a major electoral force. But, on the day after the Supreme Court issued Shelby County v. Holder, eliminating preclearance obligations, a leader of the party that newly dominated the legislature announced an intention to enact what he characterized as an ‘omnibus’ election law. Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices. Upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans.” – Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, NAACP v. North Carolina

The National Urban League has been at the forefront of the fight for voting rights for decades. At the national and state level, we and our network of 90 affiliates in the Urban League Movement have advocated for access to the ballot, condemned efforts at voter suppression, and fought for our rights in the courts and in the streets.

My predecessor, Whitney M. Young, stood proudly with the other Big Six civil rights leaders beside President Lyndon Johnson as he signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Our rights are more threatened than at any time since that moment. That’s why the Urban League Movement is engaged in a voter education and civic participation campaign called “Enough is Enough. VOTE!”

I could quote statistics showing how voter registration and voter participation rates rose steadily from the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 until 2013, when the Supreme Court gutted the act with its decision in Shelby v. Holder.

To quote Congressman John Lewis, who very nearly lost his life in the battle for the Voting Rights Act, “Increasing the voter rolls was not the central purpose of the legislation. It was intended to stop state-sponsored terrorism, intimidation and unjust, humiliating practices – literacy tests, poll taxes and even lynching – which led people of color to fear registering and voting on Election Day.”

It is no coincidence and no accident that the push to dismantle voting rights intensified after the election of 2008 – the first time in United States history when the Black voting rate equaled the White rate.

That’s exactly when Georgia, for example, tried to enact its controversial “exact match” policy, which allows the state to reject voter registrations if so much as a hyphen is out of place. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, however, the policy was rejected.

Despite the Justice Department’s determination that “flawed system frequently subjects a disproportionate number of African American, Asian, and/or Hispanic voters to … erroneous burdens on the right to register to vote,” Georgia is now on its third attempt to enact “exact match,” and is being sued for the second time.

In 2018, voters in at least eight states will face more stringent voting laws than they did in the last federal election. Overall, voters in 23 states will face tougher restrictions than they did in 2010. Tens of thousands of registered voters were deterred from voting by these racially discriminatory voter-suppression tactics.