High Desert Sketches: Hear no evil, see no evil, SCREAM all evil 

Art by Valerie “CrowCrumbs” Howard

One of the looming questions of our day is how far around the bend Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell can go before he falls off the edge of the earth. Yes, I know the world is round, but obviously Mitch does not. It all started when he announced to the world that anything the newly-elected President Obama would send to the Senate would die there. I hoped that President Obama would open every news conference he held by replaying Mitch’s proclamation of turning the United States Senate into a graveyard. Obama didn’t. Now, Mitch has gone even further round that proverbial bend. As I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, I knew that the filibuster was used to fight every bit of Civil Rights legislation that was presented to Congress. But a few days ago, ole Mitch said, “There was no racial history connected to the filibuster.” Okay. The filibuster folks stated they were fighting for states’ rights, when in fact they were doing everything they could to suppress voters’ rights, particularly Black folks.

To date, under the aegis of suppressing voter fraud, hundreds of pieces of legislation have been introduced throughout the South that would restrict access to the polls. One of the best examples of these attempts at voter suppression is Georgia’s S.B. 202, which imposes stricter voter I.D. laws, limits the number of ballot drop boxes, and even criminalizes giving people food and water as they wait in line for hours.

Republicans backed off trying to destroy the Souls to the Polls in Georgia by forbidding Sundays as voting days. Georgia’s Black churches regularly loaded up buses, vans and cars to head straight to polls after Sunday morning services. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi argued in favor of Georgia’s proposed ban on Sunday voting, saying that Sunday should be to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” – apparently forgetting the times she has held campaign events on Sunday or the part where she was sworn in as a U.S. Senator … on a Sunday.

The new law imposes new identification requirements for those casting ballots by mail; curtails the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots; allows electors to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters and requires counties to hold hearings on such challenges within 10 days; makes it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line; blocks the use of mobile voting vans, as Fulton County did last year after purchasing two vehicles at a cost of more than $700,000; and prevents local governments from directly accepting grants from the private sector for any voter program. The 95-page law also strips authority from the secretary of state, making him a non-voting member of the State Election Board, and allows lawmakers to initiate takeovers of local election boards — measures that critics said could allow partisan appointees to slow down or block election certification or target heavily-Democratic jurisdictions, many of which are in the Atlanta area and are home to the state’s highest concentrations of Black and Brown voters.

The measure, backed by Republicans, sailed out of the state House and Senate on party-line votes in a single afternoon.

Governor Kemp signed it shortly afterward, saying at a news conference that with the new law, “Georgia will take another step toward ensuring our elections are secure, accessible and fair.” And he apparently said it with a straight face. “Contrary to the hyper-partisan rhetoric you may have heard inside and outside this gold dome, the facts are that this new law will expand voting access in the Peach State,” the governor added.

In Texas, proposed legislation would affect your voter rights in the following ways, but stand by because our legislature is capable of sneaking in as many little tricks as Georgia.

 

  • New limits restricting vote-by-mail
  • Gives partisan poll watchers more freedom to intimidate voters with surveillance
  • Ends programs to help people with disabilities get to the polls
  • Limits polling location hours
  • Allow for an increase in voter roll purging
  • Requires that voters with disabilities provide proof of their medical condition to state officials to vote-by-mail

Former President Tweet and his white nationalist supporters are still using his mythical stolen election rantings to raise money and support any legislation that would make it more difficult for Black and Brown minorities to have access to the polls. The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School is tracking the right’s voter suppression efforts and notes that “as of February 19, more than 253 bills restricting voting access had been carried over, prefiled, or introduced in 43 states, and the number is rising.”

Every state legislature that passed these new restrictions on voter rights claims they were doing it to prevent voter fraud, despite the fact that the FBI and our 17 national intelligence agencies have said there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election. The one benefit to come from all these new voter suppression laws is that millions of young Blacks will be able to meet the ghost of Jim Crow.


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