This country has a sad history of attempts, too many of them successful, to keep the poor, and people of color, from voting.
I want you to vote for President Obama this November 6 because the Republicans don’t even want you to vote.
This country has a sad history of attempts, too many of them successful, to keep the poor, and people of color, from voting. The Jim Crow laws of the last century were designed to keep African-Americans from the polls. And they succeeded until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
But now we’re in 2012, and the Republicans are resurrecting the same tactics used in far less enlightened times. Under the threat of voter fraud—something that again and again has been proven almost nonexistent – they have proposed draconian laws requiring voters to have certain kinds of ID, that restrict early voting, and restrict the hours polls are open.
Since the beginning of 2011, at least 180 restrictive bills have been introduced in 41 states. The vast majority of them were designed by Republicans and would disproportionately affect blacks, Latinos, working-class and low-income voters. In other words, voters who vote for Democrats.
These voters, who often work multiple jobs and can’t take off time on election day, benefit greatly from the ability to vote early. Unsurprisingly, in Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia, Republican-led legislatures have dramatically reduced early voting.
These and other tactics are beneath the dignity of the Republican party and are fundamentally undemocratic. They perpetuate an unequal system, where the vote is less available to some than to others.
I care about equality a lot, especially when it comes to lower-income Americans. My work towards achieving environmental equality for all Americans rests on the shoulders of work done to secure basic equality, or “civil” rights—often guaranteed under the constitution.
Ensuring these rights this election will take work. As we learned in 2000, we need boots on the ground to make sure that voters are allowed to vote. Day-of-election suppression was rampant in 2000, and might be again this year, especially in battleground states—and battleground counties.
That’s right—there are a dozen or so “battleground counties,” not states, that might determine the electoral college count in 2012, and thus the election. If you live in or near a battleground county, and you care about protecting equality—regardless of your party preference—I urge you to help reduce the number of potential voter-suppression victims.
If you have time—or even better, a car—let an organization specializing in voter-access know about it. Volunteer as much time as you can.
Your actions will help show those passing voter-suppression laws, that Americans believe in a fair and just system much more than gaming this great gift, the vote, we inherited from our ancestors.
The electoral victory in 2012 should be an American victory before a partisan victory, and it should be one we can all feel proud of. Please help make this possible in any way you can.
Majora Carter hosts the Peabody Award-winning public radio series “The Promised Land” and was a recipient of the MacArthur “genius” Fellowship. Her consulting company, MCG, exports climate adaptation, economic and leadership development strategies for universities, government use and underperforming communities.
This essay originally ran as part of 90 Days, 90 Reasons. For more essays, written by people such as Russell Simmons, Jamaica Kincaid, Edwidge Danticat and Majora Carter, go to 90days90reasons.com. Follow 90 Days, 90 Reasons on Twitter: https://twitter.com/90days90reasons Or like them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/90days90reasons
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
BET Politics - Your source for the latest news, photos and videos illuminating key issues and personalities in African-American political life, plus commentary from some of our liveliest voices. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
(Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)