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Add Voter Purging to List With Poll Taxes, Grandfather Clauses

by Todd A. Smith

 

 

Nothing New


Poll taxes.


Literacy tests.


Grandfather clauses.


Voter I.D. laws.


Voter purges.


All of the aforementioned rules and regulations simply existed to limit the amount of people, people of color to be exact, exercising their Constitutional right to vote.


The government should not do anything to limit voting access.


Instead, the government should do everything in its power to make sure as many citizens are registered to vote as possible and have the ability to vote with as few impediments to that right as possible.


The Supreme Court’s decision to allow Ohio to purge its voting rolls if a person does not vote in a few elections and does not respond to subsequent inquiries into their residence is just another opportunity for states to potentially restrict Black and poor voters and suppress the rights of United States citizens.


On Monday, the United States upheld Ohio’s right to purge voters who have not voted in recent elections by a five to four margin.


Ohio’s law states that if a registered voter does not vote in two years they are sent a notice from the state asking if they still live in the state of Ohio.


If that resident fails to respond and does not vote in the next two national elections, the state of Ohio assumes they no longer reside in the state and Ohio removes their names from voter rolls.


Ohio says that the law is necessary to clean up their voter rolls, and the purge is a reasonable way of achieving their goals.


However, critics do not believe that purging voters is reasonable at all because many people sit out elections because they cannot find candidates worthy of their support.


Many American citizens sat out the 2016 presidential election because they could not decide between President Donald Trump and Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Critics of the Supreme Court’s decision argue that sitting out an election because one is dissatisfied with the candidates does not mean that someone has left the state.


In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that only about four percent of people move from one county to another in any given year.


Breyer wrote that only 59 percent of Ohio residents participated in the 2014 midterm elections.


Ohio then sent notices to 1.5 million people or approximately 20 percent of the registered voters in the state of Ohio.


Even Joe Helle, the mayor of Oak Harbor, Ohio got purged from the voter rolls after the Army veteran got deployed overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Helle did not find out about the voter purge until he showed up to vote and discovered his name not on the list.


Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated the obvious when she said that voter purges, “disproportionately affected minority, low-income, disabled and veteran voters.”


Proof of that reality exists in Hamilton County, which includes the city of Cincinnati.


Voters in Black neighborhoods found themselves purged from voter rolls at twice the rate of their suburban White counterparts.


And what about voters battling significant illnesses or caring for someone battling serious illnesses?


What if a mother has a daughter battling leukemia?


Should they have to worry about a voter purge when their child sits in a hospital fighting for his or her life?


There are significant issues in life that are more important than responding to an inquiry about whether a person still lives in a state or not?


Furthermore, a better way of determining if a person lives in a state exists than monitoring their voting history.


A state only has to see if a person is paying bills in the state, cashing checks in a state or paying taxes in a particular state.


Voter purges are not reasonable for anything but to benefit one political party over the other.


And since the voter purges already affect more poor and minority residents than their more affluent White counterparts, the Democratic Party in Ohio will suffer more because minorities and the poor tend to vote Democrat more than they do Republican.


Therefore, there is no need to purge voting rolls at any time other than death.


Purging voter rolls is just an opportunity to purge rights and if it is done discriminately, that is a blatant violation of a citizen’s rights.


History has shown that limiting voter access is often limited to one group, Black Americans.


This is so because with voting comes power and as the country becomes darker, those with a darker hue have the opportunity to seize power from the powers that be.


And whenever Black and brown people began to gain more power and exercise that power, the government or society in general tries everything possible to take away that power.


New York, once only allowed Black Americans who owned property to vote.


That state of New York did not require its White citizens to own property to vote though.


Poll taxes forced Black Americans to pay an exorbitant fee in order to vote throughout the South.


Grandfather clauses only allowed people whose grandfathers could vote access to the voting polls.


Back in the day, the grandfathers of most Black Americans endured slavery so they would not have been allowed to vote.


Some states required Black Americans to pass literacy tests in order to vote.


The states deemed Black Americans illiterate if they could not recite the entire United States Constitution verbatim and from memory.


In states that allowed Blacks to vote, many White residents resorted to violence and intimidation to keep Blacks from the polls.


Some jurisdictions even moved polling locations in the middle of the night so that Blacks did not know where to cast their ballot.


When the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed, the attempt to limit the voting power of minorities did not cease.


Gerrymandering gave politicians the opportunity to redraw district lines to limit the voting power of some demographics and voting blocks.


Recently, many states passed legislation that required voters to have a valid state issued ID, which is more difficult to obtain for poor and elderly citizens.


All of these limitations to voting booths hurt the poor, less educated and elderly communities more than the more affluent, educated and younger demographics.


And the Supreme Court decision reaches much further than the state line of Ohio.


Six other states, Montana, Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Oregon and West Virginia have similar laws on the books.


And no one should be surprised if other states follow suit in the very near future.

This article was published on Friday 15 June, 2018.
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