The Oldest/Newest Test To Our Democracy

Voter Suppression is a rampant news headline these days, depending on the circles of news you follow. It is always a big issue leading up to the presidential election here in the U.S. because at times like these, there are tactics, such as gerrymandering, that are deployed to infuse that suppression in various ways. Gerrymandering is the act of redistricting for the benefit of one political party over the other. With the districts changed, it pushes certain caucuses out which alters the demographic of those eligible to vote in that district thereby assigning favor.

Voter Suppression began at almost the same time as this country did. While others may disagree, it is an arguable point that in 1787 with the advent and implementation of the 3/5 Compromise, voter suppression reared its ugly head. Though this ‘compromise’ did not revolve around voting as neither black men nor any women could vote at that time, it did operate with the understanding that 3/5 of every slave would be counted as representation with regard to taxes. Voting is a form of populace representation — the most direct form in fact — ergo the 3/5 Compromise should count as a form of voting suppression.

Fast forward about 100 years and we see the Poll Tax in 1877, followed by the Literacy Test, residency requirements and grandfather clauses through 1908. All of these were intended to disenfranchise a certain demographic from voting a certain way in a tumultuous period of Southern American history. Even if intended for the good of the Republic as, say, literacy tests may have been (or be seen today by some as a way of gauging current political knowledge), these restrictions serve only to limit the freedom every American citizen is granted in the Bill of Rights.

This brings us to 2012 (albeit at light speed) in the newest, or perhaps more aptly most recent, slew of voter suppression laws. What makes this year different from previous ones (aside from it being a presidential election year in which the incumbent is a black man) would be the amount of money infused into organizing such a coalesced attack against freedom by the very party that extols loudest the virtues of that freedom. Organization is the adjective used because it’s in multitudes of swing states which by definition means they have the power to assign the victor of this race more so than other states at this time. This isn’t just Florida again, like in 2000 and 2004, this is Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia and more. Policies like the shortening of early voting, or the requirement to present an ID at the booth, which has not existed previously, is going into effect all over our country. This is no longer about conservatives disenfranchising Blacks or youth — but with the new rules being voted upon right now for this election, we see women and the elderly being excluded as well.

What else can be deduced from this overwhelming assault on the populace than this; the Right doesn’t see voting the way America does. Though legal, this tactics are far from moral and with a constituency that uses only lip-service in reference to morality while living on the dollar, legality is good enough for them. What is meant is this: the Right see voting as a battle to be won. For good. For now and for ever. How do you win indefinitely? Take away the right to vote for any who would vote against you of course.
There is some silver lining that democracy still has a chance in the States. One of those swing states, Pennsylvania, just decided against the Voter ID law. A judge struck it down, which is a big win for our nation.  That said, the homepage to register to vote in that state only changed its mentioning of that case in the same font and position as the pre-ruling statement informing all to bring IDs to the ballot box. More so, the assigned hotline for voter registration in that state listed the ID as a requirement after said ruling against IDs was handed down. Couple this with Michigan’s takeover by Republican self-appointed state overseers (despite being the ones to fail the state of Michigan while sitting in public office), and it appears we are failing at the test of protecting our Democracy.