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Forum Post: The State of Voting in 2014

Posted 7 years ago on June 28, 2014, 12:58 a.m. EST by LeoYoh (115)
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The State of Voting in 2014

Friday, 27 June 2014 09:40
By Wendy R. Weiser, Brennan Center for Justice | News Analysis


View this analysis as a PDF http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/analysis/State_of_Voting_2014.pdf

Executive Summary

As we approach the 2014 election, America is still in the midst of a high-pitched and often highly partisan battle over voting rights. On one side are politicians passing laws and executive actions that would make it harder for many citizens to vote. This started after the 2010 midterm elections, when new state legislative majorities pushed a wave of laws cracking down on voting. On the other side are groups of voters and advocates pushing back — in the legislatures, at the ballot box, and especially in the courts.

Until recently, the Voting Rights Act was a critical tool in the fight, but the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the law's core protection last year. Since then, a number of states moved forward with controversial voting changes, including those previously blocked under the Voting Rights Act. As most state legislative sessions wind down, the focus shifts to activity in the courts, which are currently considering major challenges to new restrictions across the country.

In short, many Americans face an ever-shifting voting landscape before heading to the polls this November.

In advance of this crucial midterm election, this report details the new voting restrictions put in place over the past few years, the laws that are in place for the first time in 2014, and the major lawsuits that could affect this year's elections. Our key findings include: Since the 2010 election, new voting restrictions are slated to be in place in 22 states. Unless these restrictions are blocked — and there are court challenges to laws in six of those states — voters in nearly half the country could find it harder to cast a ballot in the 2014 midterm election than they did in 2010. The new laws range from photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to voter registration restrictions. Partisanship and race were key factors in this movement. Most restrictions passed through GOP-controlled legislatures and in states with increases in minority turnout. In 15 states, 2014 will be the first major federal election with these new restrictions in place. Ongoing court cases could affect laws in six of these states.

The courts will play a crucial role in 2014, with ongoing suits challenging laws in seven states. Voting advocates have filed suits in both federal and state courts challenging new restrictions, and those suits are ongoing in seven states — Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. There is also an ongoing case in Iowa over administrative action that could restrict voting. More cases are possible as we get closer to the election.

There has also been some positive momentum. Laws to improve the election system and increase voting access passed in 16 states since 2012, and these laws will be in effect in 11 states this November. The most common improvements were online registration and other measures to modernize voter registration, and increased early voting.

Still, this national struggle over voting rights is the greatest in decades. Voters in nearly half the country could head to the polls in November worse off than they were four years ago. This needs to change.

New Laws Restricting the Vote

Election laws have long been prone to politicization, but for decades there were no major legislative movements to restrict voting. Indeed, the last major legislative push to cut back on voting rights was after Reconstruction. The first stirrings of a new movement to restrict voting came after the 2000 Florida election debacle. Indiana and Georgia passed restrictive photo ID laws in 2005 and 2006, respectively, and Arizona voters approved a ballot initiative in 2004 requiring registrants to provide documentary proof of citizenship when signing up.

But the 2010 election marked a major shift. From early 2011 until the 2012 election, state lawmakers across the country introduced at least 180 restrictive voting bills in 41 states. By the 2012 election, 19 states passed 27 restrictive voting measures, many of which were overturned or weakened by courts, citizen-led initiatives, and the Department of Justice before the election. States continued to pass voting restrictions in 2013 and 2014.

What is the cumulative effect of this legislative movement? As of now, a few months before the 2014 midterm elections, new voting restrictions are set to be in place in 22 states.[1] Ongoing court cases could affect laws in six of these states.[2] Unless these restrictions are blocked, citizens in nearly half the nation could find it harder to vote this year than in 2010.


Partisanship played a key role. Of the 22 states with new restrictions, 18 passed entirely through GOP-controlled bodies,[4] and Mississippi's photo ID law passed by a voter referendum. Two of the remaining three states — Illinois and Rhode Island — passed much less severe restrictions. According to a recent study from the University of Massachusetts Boston, restrictions were more likely to pass "as the proportion of Republicans in the legislature increased or when a Republican governor was elected."

Race was also a significant factor. Of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, 7 have new restrictions in place.[5] Of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010, 9 passed laws making it harder to vote.[6] And nearly two-thirds of states — or 9 out of 15 — previously covered in whole or in part by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because of a history of race discrimination in voting have new restrictions since the 2010 election.[7] Social science studies bear this out. According to the University of Massachusetts Boston study, states with higher minority turnout were more likely to pass restrictive voting laws. A University of California study suggests that legislative support for voter ID laws was motivated by racial bias.

What do these laws look like?

Voter ID: A total of 13 states passed more restrictive voter ID laws between 2011 and 2014, 11 of which are slated to be in effect in 2014.[8] Nine states passed strict photo ID requirements,[9] meaning a citizen cannot cast a ballot that will count without a specific kind of government-issued photo ID. An additional four states passed less strict ID requirements.[10] Eleven percent of Americans do not have government-issued photo ID, according to a Brennan Center study, which has been confirmed by numerous independent studies. Research shows these laws disproportionately harm minorities, low-income individuals, seniors, students, and people with disabilities. In Texas, for example, early data from the state showed that between 600,000 and 800,000 registered voters did not have the kind of photo ID required by the state's law, and that Hispanics were 46 to 120 percent more likely to lack an ID than whites. In North Carolina, estimates show that 318,000 registered voters — one-third of whom are African American — lack a DMV-issued ID.[11]

Voter Registration: A total of 10 states passed laws making it harder for citizens to register to vote between 2011 and 2014.[12] These measures took a variety of forms. Four states[13] have new restrictions on voter registration drives. Nationally, African Americans and Hispanics register through drives at twice the rate as whites.[14] Three states[15] also passed laws requiring registrants to provide documentary proof of citizenship, which as many as 7 percent of Americans do not have readily available. Nebraska and North Carolina eliminated highly-popular same-day registration, and Wisconsin made it harder for people who have moved to stay registered.

Early Voting: Eight states passed laws cutting back on early voting days and hours.[16] These restrictions could exacerbate lines on Election Day and are particularly likely to hurt minority voters. For example, in North Carolina, Department of Justice data show that 7 in 10 African Americans who cast ballots in 2008 voted during the early voting period, and 23 percent of them did so during the week that was cut. Many states eliminated weekend and evening hours, when minority voters are more likely to cast a ballot. According to a study in Ohio in 2008, 56 percent of weekend voters in Cuyahoga County, the state's most populous, were black. Restoring Voting Rights to People with Past Convictions: Three states also made it harder to restore voting rights for people with past criminal convictions.[17] These laws disproportionately impact African Americans. Nationwide, 7.7 percent of African Americans have lost the right to vote, compared to 1.8 percent of the rest of the population.

What's New in 2014

In 15 states,[18] 2014 will be the first major federal election with new voting restrictions in place. Ongoing court cases could affect laws in six of these states.[19] The uncertainty over these laws could lead to problems on Election Day, as they did in 2012, when voting changes, even those not in effect, contributed to long lines.[20] We have already seen problems with new ID requirements in low-turnout primaries, such as in Arkansas this May, which could foreshadow more serious problems in November.



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[-] 2 points by LeoYoh (115) 7 years ago

Lawsuits Over Voting Restrictions

Voter advocates are fighting many of these new restrictions, especially in court. Voting restrictions are currently being challenged in court in seven states — Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. A lawsuit over a voter purge is also ongoing in Iowa. Most of the cases we are watching this year will likely be decided, at least preliminarily, in the coming months and could thus impact the 2014 election.


Challenges to restrictive voting laws have had a successful track record to date. Before the 2012 election, 10 courts blocked new restrictions in at least 7 states.[21] Some of those legal fights continued into this year — in Pennsylvania (where a case challenging a strict new photo ID requirement is now over after the governor chose not to appeal a ruling against the law), in Texas (where a court found the state's voter ID law discriminatory under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, but then the Supreme Court effectively invalidated Section 5, prompting a new lawsuit challenging the same voter ID law under a different legal provision), and in Arizona (where the Supreme Court ruled against the state's new documentary proof of citizenship requirement for voter registration but left room for the state to sue again to seek a different result).

Over the past few years voters have won decisively in Pennsylvania on voter ID; in Florida on voter registration restrictions, early voting cutbacks, and a voter purge; in Ohio on early voting cutbacks and provisional ballot counting; and in a few cases challenging ballot measure language.

Voters received favorable decisions in ongoing lawsuits in Wisconsin and Arkansas on voter ID and Iowa on voter purges. Voters also won a lawsuit challenging Texas's voter ID law that is now being re-litigated under a different provision of law after the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

Voters have also experienced losses — in Tennessee on voter ID, in Texas on voter registration drive restrictions, and in South Carolina on voter ID (though during the course of the litigation, the state interpreted the law in a way that was much less restrictive). All of those laws are in place this year.

Improving Voting Access

There has also been some positive momentum to improve voting.

After long lines marred the 2012 election, dozens of states introduced legislation in 2013 and 2014 to improve access to the polls. Overall, laws to improve the voting process passed in 16 states, and are set to be in effect in 11 states this November.[22] Five of these states also passed voting restrictions.[23]


What do these laws look like?

Voter Registration Modernization: A total of 11 states passed laws to modernize the voter registration system and make it easier for eligible citizens to sign up.[24] (A number of states, like New York, implemented reforms administratively and are not reflected here.) Research shows these upgrades can increase registration rates, efficiency, and accuracy, save money, and curb the potential for fraud. Seven states passed laws creating or upgrading online registration systems.[25]

Five states added same-day registration options.[26] Two states passed laws requiring motor vehicle offices to transfer voter registrations electronically to local election offices.[27]

Early Voting: Three states expanded or created early voting opportunities[28], which can reduce stress on the voting system, lead to shorter lines on Election Day, and improve poll worker performance, among other benefits. Massachusetts's law will not be in effect until 2016. Missouri and Connecticut voters will also consider ballot measures to create early voting periods.

Pre-Registration: Three states passed laws allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote before turning 18.[29]

Restoring Voting Rights to People with Past Convictions: Delaware passed a constitutional amendment expanding opportunities for people with criminal convictions to regain their right to vote.

Easing Voter ID Burdens: Oklahoma passed a law making its existing photo ID law less restrictive.

Access to Ballots: Colorado expanded access for voters who speak a language other than English. Mississippi and Oklahoma also expanded access to absentee ballots.

[-] 2 points by LeoYoh (115) 7 years ago

There was also movement on the national level. The bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration released a widely-praised set of recommendations to fix many of the problems persistently plaguing the voting system. These ideas included modernizing voter registration and increasing early voting opportunities. A few states — Hawaii, Illinois, Nebraska, Massachusetts, and Minnesota — adopted some of these reforms in 2014. And in Congress, Republicans and Democrats introduced a bill to strengthen the Voting Rights Act. Unfortunately, that measure appears stalled. Democrats in Congress also introduced a host of bills to modernize the voting system, reduce long lines, and increase access to the polls.

[1] Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. For a detailed description of each state's laws, see our interactive map or this list.

[2] Arkansas, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. There is also a challenge to an Arizona law not reflected here because that law passed before 2010.

[3] Montana lawmakers put a referendum on the November ballot to repeal Election Day registration, but that repeal will not actually be in effect this year. An Arizona law requiring documentary proof of citizenship when registering was passed in 2004, but blocked in 2012 for a voter using the federal registration form. In response, Arizona joined Kansas, which has a similar law, in a suit to force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to change the federal form to allow the two states to require such documents. In March 2014, a federal judge ruled the EAC must change the form, but the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed that decision while it considers the appeal. Arizona is included here because until now, the federal form has never been amended to allow for documentary proof of citizenship in any state.

[4] By GOP-controlled body, we mean: (1) Both chambers of the legislature were controlled by Republicans and a Republican governor signed the bill, (2) Republicans controlled both chambers and overrode a veto from a Democratic governor, or (3) a Republican governor took executive action without legislative involvement. States in the first category were Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska (unicameral legislature with GOP governor), North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia (the GOP lieutenant governor broke a tie between an equally divided Senate), and Wisconsin. States in the second category were Arkansas and New Hampshire. Iowa and Florida fall into the third category.

[5] Mississippi (73.1 percent), South Carolina (72.5), Wisconsin (70.5), Ohio (70.0), Georgia (68.1), North Carolina (68.1), and Virginia (68.1). Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2008 - Detailed Tables, Table 4b (Reported Voting and Registration of the Voting-Age Population, by Sex, Race and Hispanic Origin, for States: November 2008) http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/socdemo/voting/publications/p20/2008/tables.html.

[6] South Carolina (148 percent growth), Alabama (145), Tennessee (134), Arkansas (114), North Carolina (111), Mississippi (106), South Dakota (103), Georgia (96), and Virginia (92). Source: Pew Hispanic Center tabulations of U.S. Census Bureau Redistricting_Files-PL_94-171 for states http://www.pewhispanic.org/files/reports/140.pdf.

[7] Alabama, Florida (partially covered), Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina (partially covered), South Carolina, South Dakota (partially covered), Texas, and Virginia.

[8] Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The North Carolina law will not be in effect for 2016, and the Wisconsin law was blocked by the courts in ongoing litigation. Some of these states passed more than one voting restriction and thus appear in other categories as well.

[9] Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The North Carolina law will not be in effect for 2016, and the Wisconsin law was blocked by the courts in ongoing litigation.

[10] A photo ID is requested in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and South Carolina, but there is an affidavit alternative. A non-photo ID is required in North Dakota.

[11] A study from the North Carolina Board of Elections estimates 318,643 registered voters lack a DMV-issued photo ID. Approximately one-third of that total (107,681) are African American. Available here: http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/electionlaw/litigation/documents/League1591.pdf.

[12] Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

[13] Florida, Illinois, Texas, and Virginia.

[14] Voting Law Changes in 2012, at 20 & 48 (2011), available at http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/Democracy/VRE/Brennan_Voting_Law_V10.pdf; State Restrictions on Voter Registration Drives, at 3 & 9 (2012), available at http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/publications/State%20Restrictions%20on%20Voter%20Registration%20Drives.pdf.

[15] Alabama, Kansas, and Tennessee. The Kansas law is only in effect for the state registration form. Alabama and Tennessee election officials have yet to implement their state's laws.

[16] Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

[17] Florida, Iowa, and South Dakota.

[18] Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

[19] Arkansas, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. There is also a challenge to an Arizona law not reflected here because that law passed before 2010.

[20] How to Fix Long Lines, at 4 (2013), available at http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/How_to_Fix_Long_Lines.pdf.

[21] Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

[22] Laws in Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia are slated to be in effect in 2014. Measures in Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Nebraska will be in effect at a later date. Missouri voters will consider a ballot measure this November. Connecticut citizens will also vote on an early voting ballot measure this year, but that bill passed prior to 2013 and is not included in this count. For a detailed description of each state's laws, see our interactive map or this list.

[23] Illinois, Nebraska, Mississippi, Virginia, and West Virginia.

[24] Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

[25] Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

[26] Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, and Utah. Both Illinois and Utah are pilot programs.

[27] Nebraska and New Mexico.

[28] Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Illinois's bill is a pilot program for 2014 only.

[29] Colorado, Louisiana, and Massachusetts.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYoh (115) 7 years ago

Fifty Years After Freedom Summer, US Faces Greatest Curbs on Voting Rights Since Reconstruction

Friday, 27 June 2014 11:32
By Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now! | Video Interview


In a week marking the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, Mississippi was in the news when African-American voters crossed party lines to help Republican Sen. Thad Cochran narrowly defeat a tea party challenger to win his party’s nomination. It was just a year ago that Cochran praised a Supreme Court decision that gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act. We are joined by three guests: Jerry Mitchell, investigative reporter for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, whose work helped put four Klansmen behind bars, including the man who orchestrated the Klan’s 1964 killings of three civil rights activists; Ari Berman, who covers voting rights for The Nation, author of a forthcoming book to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act; and David Goodman, brother of slain civil rights activist Andrew Goodman.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We stay now in Mississippi, a state that was in the news this week when African-American voters crossed party lines to help Republican Senator Thad Cochran narrowly defeat a tea party challenger to win his party’s nomination. It was just a year ago that Cochran praised a Supreme Court decision that gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act. An editorial in today’s New York Times calls on him to now become the first Republican to cross party lines to support a new measure that would restore the act’s protections.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re staying in Jackson, Mississippi, where we’re joined by Jerry Mitchell, investigative reporter for The Clarion-Ledger. His work has helped put four Klansmen behind bars, including the man who orchestrated the Klan’s '64 killings of the three civil rights activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, during Freedom Summer, as well as the assassin of NAACP leader Medgar Evers in 1963. He's writing a book on cold cases from the civil rights era called Race Against Time.

We’re also joined by Ari Berman, who covers voting rights for The Nation. His latest article, "Fifty Years After Freedom Summer, the Voting Rights Act Is Needed More Than Ever," and "Where Are the GOP Supporters of Voting Rights?" also working on a book to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

Jerry Mitchell, as we talk about voting rights, can you just talk very briefly about this unusual race that took place, with Thad Cochran, the longtime incumbent senator, narrowly defeating a tea party challenger—


AMY GOODMAN: —by appealing to black Democrats to come out and vote for him?


AMY GOODMAN: In some states, it’s a closed primary, so Democrats can’t run for—vote for Republicans, and vice versa. But how does it work in Mississippi?

JERRY MITCHELL: Well, it’s the opposite of that: It’s an open primary. And so, if you vote—for example, in this case, you had a runoff. Let’s say you voted in the Democratic primary as a Democrat. You could turn right around and vote for the—in the Republican runoff. There is no restriction on that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Jerry Mitchell, on this anniversary of the killings of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, you were instrumental in finally getting, through your coverage, one of the Klansmen, Edgar Ray Killen, finally convicted, although it took more than 40 years. Could you talk a little bit about how you were able to uncover or finally get this story out?

JERRY MITCHELL: Well, what it was, there was an interview that—Sam Bowers, who was the head of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, had done an interview. There had been a prosecution, federal prosecution, in 1967 for violating civil rights. Eighteen men were tried then. Seven were convicted, including Bowers, and the rest of the 18 walked. Bowers said, in this secret interview I was able to get a copy of, that he was quite delighted to be convicted and have the main instigator of the entire affair walk out of the courtroom a free man, and he was referring to Edgar Ray Killen. And so, that was what got the case reopened in 1999 and eventually led to reprosecution in 2005.

AMY GOODMAN: David Goodman, were you at the trial? What did it mean to you to have Preacher Killen actually put behind bars?

DAVID GOODMAN: Yes, I was at the trial. And you know what? It’s a good question. It’s mixed with emotion, and it’s a complicated question. I can give you the simple, quick answer that, you know, he was involved in a murder, ostensibly, it was determined—actually, he wasn’t convicted for murder; he was convicted for manslaughter, which is a lower count. But, to me—and if somebody commits a crime, they should be convicted and pay the price for that. But no one else was convicted. The people who were physically—he was not physically at the scene of the crime. The men who were physically there were never convicted of anything. They weren’t even tried. And you can’t be convicted if you’re not tried. They weren’t even indicted, which is kind of step one.

And, to me, the question is: How do you indict society? These men who killed my brother did commit a crime, but it was condoned by millions and millions and millions of people. In that movie clip you showed from Neshoba, there’s a piece where one of the relatives of one of the murderers, who was known to be there—and, by the way, that was established in a federal court—who killed my brother and James and Mickey—their Social Security number, the FBI knew. It never got to a state court, which is the only place murder can be tried. He said, "If you come into somebody’s community and you stick your nose into their business, don’t be surprised if it gets cut off." And then he paused a moment and said, "You know, they deserved it." Forty years later, he’s condoning murder to protect their way of life. And the whole society protected a way of life that resulted in murders, not just of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney, but of hundreds of people. And it was a police state, condoned.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask Ari Berman, a little time we have left, your—the status of voting rights in America today, and given this anniversary and this—these murders helped propel the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965?

ARI BERMAN: Well, right now we’re seeing the greatest restriction of voting rights since Reconstruction. And so, voting rights is an issue just like it was in 1964, 1965. It is still very relevant today. Since the 2010 election, 22 states have passed new voting restrictions, things like strict voter ID or cuts to early voting, restriction of same-day registration, things like that. And so, there’s a great need now for the Voting Rights Act. Ironically, at the same time we’re seeing this great push to restrict voting rights, the Supreme Court has taken a totally different view that the Voting Rights Act is not needed in a way that it was needed in 1965. So, there’s something of an irony. Justice Ginsburg, in her dissent in that Shelby County decision you mentioned earlier, said that Section 5, which meant that states like Mississippi had to clear their voting changes with the federal government, it was like an umbrella, and you don’t take away the umbrella when it’s not raining. And the irony is that it was pouring. There was so much voting discrimination at the time that the Supreme Court took away that decision. And so, now voting rights advocates are trying to protect voting rights without that crucial protection from the Supreme Court.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Jerry Mitchell, do you feel Mississippi is different today? I mean, you’ve been investigating these crimes for years, but you’re also attending these voting rights and Freedom Summer gatherings that are taking place in Mississippi.

JERRY MITCHELL: Right. Well, Mississippi has changed a lot. Back in—50 years ago, there were 6 percent of African Americans were even allowed to vote in Mississippi. Today, Mississippi has more African-American elected officials than any other state. So, Mississippi has come a long ways, but we have to also be honest and say it still has a long ways to go.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, and, David, as you come up from Mississippi back to New York and New Jersey where you live, do you feel progress has been made after the deaths of your brother and so many others?

DAVID GOODMAN: Well, I think Mississippi reflects the rest of the country. There was a lot of—there has been a lot of progress made all around the country. The issues now are more subtle, a different mode of restriction. And I look at the intent when people do something. The people who murdered my brother committed the worst crime, but they also assassinated the Constitution. That’s how I felt about it. And when you—whether you’re a Democrat or Republican—and both parties have done it—you’re assassinating the Constitution.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank David Goodman, Ari Berman, Jerry Mitchell. Thanks so much for being with us. That does it for our show.

I’ll be speaking tonight in Chicago at the Crown Plaza Hotel, Conference Center, Chicago O’Hare Airport area. Check our website at democracynow.org. And we have two job openings at Democracy Now! Check democracynow.org.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYoh (115) 7 years ago

Fannie Lou Hamer and the Racist Dixiecrats

Friday, 27 June 2014 11:52
By Paul Jay, The Real News Network | Video Interview



More at The Real News


PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome back to Reality Asserts Itself with Robert Moses. Bob Moses joins us again in the studio. Thanks for joining us.


JAY: So, one more time, Bob Moses is an educator and civil rights activist. During the 1960s he was a field secretary for SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, as well as one of the main organizers of the Mississippi Freedom Summer project that helped register black voters in the Deep South. He was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War. From '69 to '75 he worked as a teacher in Tanzania. 'Ninety-two, he received the MacArthur Fellowship, which he used to develop the Algebra Project, an organization aimed at improving math education in poor communities. He's the author of Radical Equations: Civil Rights for Mississippi to the Algebra Project.

Thanks for joining us.

MOSES: Yeah.

JAY: So let's pick up the story, go back to the Kennedy question, 'cause if you have this legislation that says you're not allowed to interfere, then clearly the state troopers and a myriad of organizations were interfering in the registration process. Couldn't the federal government have intervened more--

MOSES: Well, what they did--.

JAY: --far more vigorously?

MOSES: Well, but what happened and what--it was what I came to think of as our legal crawlspace, right? We had this little space, so that every time we got arrested, as long as we disciplined ourselves and only did voter registration, every time we got [incompr.] was arrested seven times Mississippi. But every time I got arrested, the Justice Department would come and turn the jailhouse key. So Mississippi could lock us up, but they didn't control the jailhouse key, right? So that's what actually enabled us to organize, right, that we had this space.

They weren't going to do anything about the violence, right; they weren't going to send in, you know, marshals. And I don't see how they could have done it. I mean, I don't see--I mean, you could station people at the courthouse, maybe, right, but the issue of taking over the police power, right, and becoming a police force when the voter registration workers are moving all over--.

I mean, we filed suit. You know, I put my name on suits suing Kennedy, right, around this issue of police protection. But that wasn't the real relationship between us and the Justice Department. I mean, there was this kind of media relationship, where you're filing suit against the attorney general, but the much more productive relationship was the conversations with Burke Marshall and John Doar, right, in terms of the actual strategy.

What the Justice Department actually did was shift their strategy from going after individual registrars to going after the whole state. So they filed suit against the state of Mississippi, and also against the state of Louisiana, right? And it was out of those suits that they got the actual opinions. And you're dealing here with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

JAY: Right. Now, during this period, you're organizing locally, you're looking to develop new leadership, and you come across Fannie Lou Hamer.

MOSES: Yes. So what happens is we get out of jail in November 1961, and we decide that we're going to run candidates, right? And so R. L. T. Smith is the candidate for the congressional district that includes McComb, Natchez, Vicksburg. And I'm his road manager, right? Dr. Britton is his campaign manager.

[-] 2 points by LeoYoh (115) 7 years ago

JAY: And, just again, you're going to run candidates knowing that you really haven't been able to register people, but this is going to be an example of what could be.

MOSES: Right. This is consciousness-raising. Yeah. Look, folks, get ready, right, you're going to actually be voting for people. Right? And so we go around doing this.

And after this is over, Amzie, who had actually started, you know, this concept and sent me down to McComb because he didn't have a place, right, to actually start up in the Delta, comes down to Jackson and says, you know, he's ready now to move in the Delta, right? And so we--people that we'd been working with in the McComb/southwest area and in Jackson, we move and deploy people across different counties in the Delta. And by August 1962, right, we are organized in Sunflower County, and Amzie gets a school bus to take people down to Indianola, the county seat, to register.

So I'm on the bus on our way down, and there's this lady that starts singing as soon as the bus starts moving, right, and she sings all the way down to Indianola. And she's sitting in the front, turned towards the back, and--.

JAY: What is she singing?

MOSES: So she's singing every song that ever had been sung in a black church. It's like she knows every song, right, that black people had ever sung in their churches, right? And mostly ladies on the bus. Joe McDonald was on there. And they're in their 40s, 50s, and it's an older group of ladies, right?

So when we get off, the SNCC field secretaries try to leaflet. We're all arrested, right? On the way back, well, when she gets back home, she's working on the Marlowe plantation.

JAY: And this is Fannie Lou Hamer.

MOSES: This is Fannie Lou Hamer. Yes. And Marlowe is there waiting for her. They had called in and asked--you know, demanding that she leave. And she tells the story--she actually tells what happened to her when she got off when she got back at the Democratic convention later, two years later, in 1964. But he, you know, tells her to go down and take her name off, and she tells him she's not--she's registering for herself. So she is forced to leave the plantation. And a couple of weeks later, she actually becomes our oldest field secretary; she becomes a field secretary.

JAY: There's a point not much longer where she gets arrested and beaten terribly.

MOSES: This is 1963, a year later, right?

So if you think about the COFO operation, the citizenship training that Martin Luther King had set up in South Carolina with Septima Clark and Bernice Robinson, they assigned Annelle Ponder to be stationed in Greenwood. And she used our apparatus, right, that we had developed, and used that as a base to reach out, recruit people, take them to South Carolina, do citizenship training. And they came back, and then they would do citizenship training for people in Mississippi, right?

So, coming back from that training, Fannie Lou Hamer, June Johnson, Euvester Simpson, and Annelle, the bus stopped in Winona, and they got off. I've forgotten who got off first and tried to go in, but eventually all of them were arrested. And Mrs. Hamer and Annelle and June, Euvester, were horribly beaten, right? And this is another part of her testimony.

JAY: They were almost killed.

MOSES: Yeah--well, I don't know if they were almost killed, but they were really just brutally beaten, right? Yeah. Right.

JAY: So with the voter registration attempts, the sort of mock elections or running candidates to show what could be, the only party there is that one could imagine you could fight within or vote for is the Democratic Party. And the Democratic Party in Mississippi is pretty much as white racist as the Republicans are. And you go to the '64 convention.

And before that, tell us the story of the creation of the Mississippi Democratic Freedom Party, 'cause--.

MOSES: Yeah. So here's the thing to understand about our political party system. We really had three parties, right? And so we had the Dixiecrat, which is purely white party. And this is coming from 1875 on, right, when they overthrew Adelbert Ames and the Republicans, right, Adelbert Ames, who had been elected governor by the black vote. So 1873, blacks are the majority of voters in Mississippi, right? And with troops on the ground, they elect Adelbert Ames governor, right? So the Democrats' terror and violence, just murder, right, overthrow that, right, and they establish what effectively now, for three-quarters of a century or more, is the Dixiecrat Party, right, which is your all-white party. Right?

So they are operating as a wing within the Democratic Party, right, up until 1964, right, when the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party goes up to the Atlantic City convention. Now, Kennedy has been gunned down. This is November 1963. Kennedy is gunned down. Right? Johnson is president but hasn't been nominated. He is to be nominated in August 1964. Right? So when the Mississippi Freedom Democrats go there and in effect they end the reign in Mississippi of the Dixiecrat Party, right, of the white Democrats, and what--.

My point, however, is that the white Democrats then become the white Republicans, right? So it's really just this one party, which is the Dixiecrat Party, which has operated for three-quarters of a century within the Democrat Party, and then after 1964, when the in effect MFTP, the Mississippi Freedom Democrats, right, end their reign within the Democratic Party and they switch over to the Republican Party--but it's the same party. It's the same Dixiecrat Party. Right? And the country has allowed that to happen, right? They have allowed the camouflage of these two parties, Democrats and Republicans, to camouflage this Dixiecrat white party within the national parties. So for three-quarters of a century, right, they were within the Democratic Party, and now they're in the Republican Party, right? But the party structures themselves has not said, well, we don't want these folks in our party, right? I mean, they've been able to say, we don't want black people, right, but they haven't been able to say, we don't want white folks.

JAY: Okay. In the next segment of our interview, we're going to talk more about the relationship of the civil rights movement to the Democratic Party and the whole issue of elections and continue our discussion with Bob Moses on Reality Asserts Itself on The Real News Network.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.