When the Civil War ended ended 150 years ago, President Lincoln managed, mainly through bribery and intimidation, to get the 13th amendment passed which formerly ended the practice of slavery. Shortly after Lincoln’s assassination, the 14th amendment was also passed which gave former slaves full citizenship including the right to vote. Since there were heavy black populations in the deep South, especially in states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, the fear among whites was that blacks voting in large numbers, could team up with enough whites that might have had a sliver of conscience, to elect candidates that actually possessed some human decency. Well, you certainly couldn’t let that happen. So the Southern white majority, along with all the segregation and Jim Crow laws, enacted legislation to assure that blacks would be unable to vote in any significant numbers.
First of all, most freed slaves possessed little if any education, or job skills, other than picking cotton. So many remained on the plantation and continued to pick cotton, for little more than room and board under the most squalid of conditions. If any of them should have been so foolhardy as to actually try to exercise their right to vote, the plantation owner made it very clear how he wanted the election results to turn out. If his guy wasn’t elected, these former slaves would likely loose the pathetic jobs they were forced to cling to. And, as if that weren’t enough, Southern states put into practice further roadblocks to prevent black turnouts at the voting booths. Laws that came to known as “poll taxes” were enacted in virtually every Southern state. In other words, one had to pay a tax for the Constitutional right to vote.
Now these poll taxes were usually set at a fairly nominal amount such as $10 so as not to discourage too many whites from voting. But $10 was a heap of lettuce to the average black family mired in poverty. So these poll taxes usually achieved their goal of minimizing the black turnout at the voting booth. But just to make sure, most Southern states also enacted literacy laws which required newly freed slaves to take rather difficult written tests on U.S. history and the Constitution, to prove that they were literate enough to cast a ballot. Tests that most high-school and a fair number of college students would likely fail today. As a result, all these barriers achieved their aim of greatly discouraging blacks from voting; resulting in totally racist Senators and Congressmen that could be counted on to always vote for Jim Crow segregation legislation, getting elected, generation-after-generation.
Now, fast forward to a century later, to when President Lyndon Johnson pushed through the civil rights legislation of 1964. This act abolished all poll taxes and literacy tests, as well as any other hinderances that might have existed when any U.S. citizen seeks to exercise his or her right to vote. For the first time, minorities and poor people in general started voting in large numbers, and the age of racist demagogues being elected to national office was over. The 1964 voting rights act also required that Southern states remain under special scrutiny by the U.S. Attorney General, to assure there wasn’t further hanky-panky going on to interfere with an individual’s rights at the voting booth. Interestingly, the Supreme Court has just struck that provision in the law, in the mistaken belief that racism is no longer a factor in national elections. In any event-“who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Only The Shadow knows.” (Sorry, those were the opening lines from a radio show in the 1940s. I just couldn’t resist.)
Now, 50 years after that historic civil rights legislation, it doesn’t take The Shadow to know that huge amounts of evil lurks in the hearts of men. Especially when it comes to finding ways to circumvent existing voting rights legislation. Thus, most Southern and many Mid-Western states, i.e. the red states, have now passed what are called voter ID laws. These laws require that before one can cast a ballot, they are required to produce valid photo identification. I don’t know about others, but the only picture ID I have in my wallet is my drivers license. If I didn’t drive anymore, and let my license lapse, would that mean that I could no longer vote? That’s exactly what it would come down to. In other words, it’s a method by which Republican states can keep those most likely to vote Democratic off the voter rolls.
Who is most likely not to have picture ID in their possession. First, it’s the old and/or infirm that cannot drive because of age or illness. If they don’t drive, what other picture ID would be in their possession. Their gym membership cards? Also, there are many people in this country that don’t have a drivers license simply because they’re too poor to own a car. No car, no license. I’m pretty safe in saying that these same people also fail to possess passports. So, in the end, it’s the poor, the sick, and the elderly that are being kicked off voter registration lists, and by the hundreds of thousands. The very groups that are most likely to vote for Democratic candidates. A rather simple but effective way to flush all the good intentions of voting rights legislation down the sewer. In the 2012, the Republican Governor and Secretary of State in Florida, arbitrarily booted several hundred thousand registered voters off the rolls about a month or two before the election. That Obama was still able to carry the state, albeit by a very narrow margin, is like the 8th wonder of the world.
In any event, the voting process in this country has been so thoroughly corrupted by big money, campaign donations, and voter ID requirements that its become a sick joke. I wrote previously (for those interested) about the far right-wing Koch brothers who possess a $100 billion in assets between the two of them, and how they plan to influence the upcoming 2014 elections. About how they, along with their other billionaire buddies, plan to spend whatever it takes to elect a GOP dominated Congress, come this November. But not to worry. I’m sure the Koch brothers will give us the best politicians that money can buy.