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Study: Voter-Suppression laws unfairly target Blacks

Blacks overcome Jim Crow politics

Carla St.Louis | 1/9/2014, 9 a.m.
A research study from two University of Massachusetts Boston professors confirmed what the Black community has known for years: voter-suppression ...

A research study from two University of Massachusetts Boston professors confirmed what the Black community has known for years: voter-suppression laws are partisan measures that disproportionately target them.

In a study titled, “Jim Crow 2.0? Why States Consider and Adopt Restrictive Voter Access Policies,” Keith G. Bentele and Erin E. O’Brien found many predominant factors like race, age, citizenship, political party and class play an influential role in introducing restrictive voting laws to a state.

“[W]here African-Americans and poor people vote more frequently, and there are larger numbers of non-citizens, restrictive-access legislation is more likely to be proposed,” the report read.

The authors concluded that “Democrats are justified in their concern that restrictive voter legislation takes aim along racial lines with strategic partisan intent” because  their findings’ show a quantitative relationship between the racial demographics of a state and the proposal of prohibitive access to the ballot.

Blacks fight Draconian voting laws

For instance, during the last election, Floridians endured massive lines and chaotic polling places largely due to an onslaught of election law changes endorsed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Those changes, criticized by Democrats as an attempt to suppress votes for President Barack Obama, undermined the early voting element of his campaign limiting it on the Sunday before Election Day--a popular day to vote within the Black community.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey M. Edmonson of District 3 suggested more laws be written that protect Blacks’ civil rights from voter-suppression laws.

“Historically, the undertones of voter-suppression came in the form of intimidation, misinformation and apathy,” she said. “Today, laws are put in place that mislead voters to believe that there are no provisions in place [...]. The advocacy for new formula changes in the Voter Rights Act and protections of other sections of the law are still necessary to ensure equality.”

The research revealed that “states where minority turnout [had] increased since the previous presidential election were more likely to pass restrictive legislation.”

They faulted the GOP for the anomaly saying, “the Republican Party has engaged in strategic demobilization efforts in response to changing demographics, shifting electoral fortunes, and an internal rightward ideological drift among the party faithful.”

However, in 2012 the influx of voter suppression laws backfired on the GOP as a backlash contributed to Black voter turnout in the 2012 elections surpassing white turnout for the first time in history.

"Thankfully Black, Hispanic and young voters did not fall for these tactics in 2012,” said Cedric McMinn, president of the Young Professional Network a group that aids in the retention of upwardly mobile, young Black professionals in Miami-Dade County. “Instead, voters braved long lines and reduced days of voting to re-elect President Obama, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and other Democrats.”

The authors reprimanded GOP for “actually changing voting procedures in a racialized and restraining fashion” referring to it as “de-democratization” along racial lines and “American electioneering reminiscent of authoritarian regimes.”

Meanwhile the GOP justified voter-suppression laws claiming they’re intended to hinder electoral fraud by Democrats, yet others disagreed.

"The Republican voter suppression laws were not created to prevent voter fraud,” said McMinn. “The laws were passed to confuse and deter voters from turning out in large numbers to vote. There are no widespread cases of voter fraud that Republicans can cite for their efforts in trying to undermine our democratic voting process."

Between 2006 and 2011, 83 percent of the restrictive laws proposed came from GOP-controlled state legislatures.