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How we lost the right to vote

admin | 2/1/2012, 7:30 a.m.

Prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, Blacks were not allowed to vote. After the Civil War, former slaves voted and we saw Blacks elected to federal office for the first time. The South struck back with Jim Crow laws that made it difficult or impossible to vote and Blacks elected officials did not reappear until the 1960s when the Voting Rights Act was enacted and the federal government began cracking down on discriminatory election laws. In 2008, President Obama won the election for the presidency. He was supported by Blacks, college students, new young voters and working class people who took advantage of the early voting. In response, several Republican governors and legislators passed laws that made it harder for these groups to get to the polls and vote. For instance, Blacks usually vote en masse after church on the Sunday preceding the Tuesday election.The loss of this key critical group could cost Obama the election as well as many U.S. Senate and Congressional Democratic candidates. In Florida, the only Democrat in a state-wide elected office is U.S. Senator Nelson. Republicans want his seat so they can turn the slim Democratic majority in the Senate to a Republican majority. The new legislation also attacks new voters and college students who voted in record numbers in support of Obama. The new law makes it more difficult for students to vote because their voter registration and home address do not match their college address. Requirements for registering new voters has changed so that new voter registration cards must be turned in within 48 hours. Under the old law, you had 10 days to turn them in. A high school teacher that registered her students as part of a civics lesson has run afoul of this law and was subject to fines by the State of Florida. Ultimately, new voters, especially young people, minorities and women, who would presumably vote for Obama and Democrats, will not be able to register in large numbers. Nelson is leading a charge to get rid of these laws which only serve to suppress the vote. The bottom line is if the Republicans can prevent this majority from getting to the polls, then they win. It is estimated that some 5 million people will not be allowed to vote as a result of these changes. When you realize that President Bush won the election because of a few thousand votes in Florida, the loss of 5 million voices is tremendous. The writing is on the walls: we must play the game better, despite thee obstacles, until the new laws are changed. By Reginald J. Clyne, Esq. Miami Times columnist rjc@clynelegal.com