Voting rights has gone through a series of twists and turns—from no rights to conditional rights to full rights and now restricted rights. Last year, Voting Rights took a severe step backward when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that certain states prone to discriminate no longer needed federal clearance before changing voting laws.
States have been slowly working to erode the law, introducing new Voter ID laws that make it hard for minorities, women, young and old voters. Some of the new policies require a person to pay for a birth certificate. Depending on the county, this requirement can be both expensive and inconvenient to voters.
There are some things that should not be messed with, and voting rights is one of them. Forty-nine years ago, on August 6, 1965. President Lyndon Baines Johnson, signed the historic legislation giving Americans the right to vote without denial, harassment or threats of violence. The law was clear—one person, one vote, one voice. Period.
Although the language does not specifically apply to Black Americans, this population was being singled out as targets at the voting polls. In order to vote like whites, black people had to pay poll tax, pass literacy tests, guess the number of bubbles in a bar of soap or the amount of jelly beans in a jar, or other ridiculous tricks. It was another version of the “separate-and-unequal” Jim Crow laws which made every exception under the sun when it came granting equal rights to people of color.
When poll workers weren’t keeping minority voters away with gimmicks, some physically prevented them from casting votes. They used threats, intimidation and even physical violence to stop them.
For those who say votes don’t count, ask yourself why authorities put so much energy into stopping people from voting. If votes don’t matter, why were people injured and even killed trying to obtain this very basic human right? Election officials understood the power behind voting. They understood what could be done in a democratic society and feared not getting their way.
With election season fast approaching, we must not act nonchalant about one of our most important rights. There are some who would love nothing more than to reverse the clock back to the days of poll taxes. However discouraged you may be about voting, at least you have the right. This has to be better than not being allowed to come to the table.
When you look around, you will see there are some people you wanted in office who were voted in. There are some laws that you like and feel benefits your city or state. Someone voted for the world in which you find yourself. And if you don’t like it, you can help change it with your vote.
Voting rights is one of the fairest, most fundamental rights we have, and it is your right to protect it.