Right to vote and disenfranchisement

Right to vote and disenfranchisement

The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution gave black men the right to vote five years after the end of the Civil War. Black women won that right, along with other older women, when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified fifty years later. But having a right on paper and being able to exercise it were two different things for many years. In the late 1800s and through most of the early years of the twentieth century, African Americans were systematically disenfranchised in many parts of the country through overt intimidation, poll taxes, literacy tests, or threats of lynching.

With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many of these illegal barriers to voting for black citizens were destroyed and the tide of African-American disenfranchisement turned. This led to tremendous political progress for African Americans in the United States, culminating in the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Following this historic election, a number of states passed laws in their states making it difficult for people without a specific type of government-issued photo ID to vote . Those affected by this new wave of disenfranchisement will more than likely mostly affect inner-city African Americans, young Hispanic voters, senior citizens, and students who may have school or college ID cards but not the cards , obliged by the state.

Since 2008, some states have adopted these new rules regarding state-issued ID cards on the grounds that it will prevent voter fraud. In the United States, however, there is little or no evidence of widespread voter fraud in our national elections. Instead, it appears that the reasons for these new voter ID laws are to suppress the vote of otherwise eligible voters by making it inconvenient to obtain such a card and by threatening others that they should not vote because they can be accused of “voter fraud” and sent to prison. Again, such ID laws appear to be aimed at suppressing the votes of inner-city African-Americans, young Hispanic voters, senior citizens, and students who may only have school or college IDs. Before we as a society accept this need to suppress voting, it might be wise to learn a little more about the history of disenfranchisement.

The right to vote in federal elections is determined by the voting laws in force in the state in which one resides. At least forty-six states prohibit inmates serving felony sentences from voting. Another thirty-two states deny voting to persons on felony probation or parole. In a number of states and the District of Columbia, convicted felons are barred from voting for up to ten years after their conviction. This means that more than half a million African-American men may never have the right to vote in their lifetime.

Disenfranchisement in the US is a legacy of ancient Greek and Roman traditions carried over to Europe. During the Middle Ages in Europe, notorious offenders suffered civil death, which included disenfranchisement, confiscation of property, and even death. In England, civil disabilities designed to humiliate offenders and cut them off from the community were achieved through felony bills – ie. a person convicted of a felony is liable to forfeiture of his property to the king and is considered civilly dead.

English colonists brought these concepts with them to the New World. With independence from England, the newly formed states shed some of the civil handicaps inherited from Europe. However, criminal disqualification is among those detained. In the mid-nineteenth century, nineteen of the then thirty-four existing states excluded serious offenders from voting.

Excluding convicted felons from voting took on new significance after the Civil War and the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave blacks the right to vote. Although the South had previously had laws excluding felons from voting, between 1890 and 1910 many southern states adjusted their disenfranchisement laws to increase the effect of these laws on black citizens. Crimes that led to disenfranchisement were written to include crimes that blacks were thought to commit more often than whites and to exclude crimes that whites were thought to commit more often . As an example, in South Carolina, among the disqualifying crimes were several to which the legislators felt the “negro” was particularly prone: theft, adultery, arson, wife-battering, larceny, and attempted rape. Conversely, such crimes as murder and affray, to which the white man was thought to be as prone as the negro, were considerably omitted from the list.

This is a sad and hateful story about disenfranchisement. As a result of felon disenfranchisement, the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project, a non-profit organization, released a study estimating that the impact of felony disenfranchisement means that approximately thirteen percent of black adult males do not may vote as a result of a current or previous felony conviction. This is a shameful way for Americans to suppress the right to vote for African Americans in the United States.

It’s time for thoughtful Americans not to compound this injustice by passing voter ID laws that will further suppress the votes of inner-city African-Americans, young Hispanic voters, senior citizens, and college students who may only have school or college ID cards. bogus and a pretextual assumption that it will prevent voter fraud.

#vote #disenfranchisement

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