Tag Archives: Alabama

Alabama Just Doesn’t Like Its People It Seems

Little Rock       There’s nothing new about states, particularly blood-red states, trying to suppress the vote.  The Republican strategy continues to be not to change one iota in their far right, white grievance, servant to the rich appeal, but to bear down until their last voters are gone.  The president is setting the tone, and local political sycophants are singing every verse.

It was not a surprise that even though John Merrill, Alabama’s Secretary of State, was willing to budge just a smidgen and allow some voters susceptible or concerned about the virus to vote absentee, he was still determined to not make it easy.  He insisted that they would have to crawl through the eye of a needle to do so by making a photocopy of their ID and get two witnesses or a notary to verify their ballot.  A federal judge set him straight and said that was an undue burden and a unanimous appeal court agreed, but the Supreme Court in an unsigned 5-4 decision, said, heck no, make them take some risks for an absentee ballot.

All of that is just the way it goes now.  You want to vote; you’re going to have to work for it.  Conservatives are pretty clear that the fewer votes that are cast, the better their chances.

What was a surprise to me was the complete contempt that Merrill had for the voters and citizens of Alabama that he supposedly serves.  Here’s what he had to say about these people:

“When I come to your house and show you how to use your printer, I can also show you how to tie your shoes and to tie your tie. I could also go with you to Walmart or Kinko’s and make sure that you know how to get a copy of your ID made while you’re buying cigarettes or alcohol.”

Of course, he assumes everyone asking for an absentee ballot, including the elderly and disabled, or others with pre-existing conditions, have a computer and a printer, and wear a tie.  These same people who are afraid to go vote because of their susceptibility, he thinks should skip on down to Walmart and are smoking and drinking.

Let’s be frank.  This is one office holder who clearly hates his fellow citizens and could give a hoot if they live or die.  More ironic to me is that some of these same folks who want an absentee ballot are likely to be among the Republican’s hardcore base.  What are they thinking?

The appeals court judges seem to like Alabamans more than their own officials, writing,

…that state officials were mistaken in arguing “that the photo ID and witness requirements impose only a ‘little bit of work’ on Alabamian voters.”  “That misperceives the burden,” they wrote. “The burden here is not the finding of two people or a notary to witness a signature or the finding of a location to copy one’s photo ID. Instead, the burden is tied to the fact that plaintiffs and those similarly situated must risk death or severe illness to fulfill Alabama’s absentee voter requirements and, therefore, to exercise their right to vote.”

Their opinions didn’t move the Supreme Court who probably feel about the same about Alabama as Merrill does, but it’s hard to believe that in the United States we have now become the kind of country where you have to risk your life to vote.

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Alabama Surge Does Not Change the Story on Voter Suppression

Gulfport   Voter suppression is a mark of shame in a democracy. In fact, it beggars the question of whether a democracy exists at all. The principle of any democracy has to be a maximum effort to provide access to all eligible voters to the polls in order to exercise their franchise and give voice to their opinions on the direction of the country and its leadership.

There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. Any part of the political establishment’s attempts to suppress the free expression of voters at the ballot box is anti-democratic. Period. There are no two ways about it. It’s not just politics, it’s an attempt to erode the fundamental values of the country.

A headline in the New York Times read, “Black Turnout in Alabama Complicates Debate Over Voting Laws.” Baloney! The fact that African-American voters were able to overwhelm the obstacles imposed by voter suppression and voter ID requirements does not complicate the debate whatsoever. What was wrong is still wrong. That doesn’t change just because people were able in this one instance to climb over the barriers successfully. The exception simply proves the rule in the Alabama race. Furthermore, as everyone from Republican Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell on down in the anti-voter Republican Party has said, this is a one-time thing in Alabama. How many times can voters find themselves confronted with political choices that are so utterly Manichean with good and evil presented in such stark contrasts? With voter suppression in place, and even more comprehensive in a host of other states, like Texas, a merely bad and terrible Republican would have had a good chance of winning, where the face of evil only lost by less than 2%.

The founder of Alabama’s Black Votes Matter was quoted saying, “Historically and traditionally, there has been a strong voice of resistance to those that are undemocratic,” she said. “I don’t think that this is new; I think that has always been the role that black voters, particularly in the Deep South, have played.” She’s right up to a point. Southern and, frankly, non-Southern states have been suppressing black votes for hundreds of years. I just finished reading a book called, The 1868 St. Bernard Parish Massacre: Blood in the Cane Fields, by Cris Dier, who presented it at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse recently. It was the horrific story of more than 100 African-Americans killed in a parish abutting New Orleans in the effort to suppress the post-Civil War Reconstruction voting base of the Republicans.

My point: suppression is suppression. Violence is of course worse, but so is trickery and legal shenanigans when the purpose is the same.

I worry about the Times on this beat and not just because of the headline. Hardly a week before the election they ran a story that essentially argued that African-American voters were not engaged and were ho-humming the whole affair, didn’t know Doug Jones, didn’t care about Roy Moore, and we’re sleep walking the election. Then a week later they are arguing that voter suppression didn’t work therefore the discussion about state by state efforts to suppress voters is now “complicated.”

We’re living in different realities in the United States for sure, but at the point we can’t even consistently agree of bedrock democratic values, the debate is over, and the country has lost.

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