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  • When Joseph Johnson went to vote in his first presidential election...

  • this isn't what he expected.

  • The line went this way, in front of our auditorium...

  • and then snaked around into our library.

  • The last person at his polling location didn't get to vote until 1 am.

  • It was the longest line that I've waited in in my entire life.

  • Some people, they were just like, "well, screw it."

  • This was in a heavily Democratic part of Houston, Texas.

  • And it was a primary election, where Democrats and Republicans were voting on separate machines.

  • But the county had given both parties the same number of machines to use.

  • Also, Texas had closed hundreds of polling locations in recent years,

  • meaning more people had to vote at fewer places.

  • But not everyone has to wait.

  • This is a map of all the polling locations in Joseph's county that had reports of long lines.

  • And here's the percentage of nonwhite voters in each area.

  • Notice how most places with lines were in less-white areas?

  • The poll closures, and the other decisions that led to those lines,

  • disproportionately affected people of color.

  • And whether or not that was intentional, those kinds of decisions, in places like Texas,

  • used to be highly regulated and much less frequent.

  • Today, that oversight is gone.

  • But the 2020 election could decide whether it comes back.

  • This is the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

  • In 1965, a group of civil rights activists, including the future congressman John Lewis,

  • marched across the bridge, and were attacked and beaten by police.

  • They were marching for voting rights.

  • Back then, especially in the segregated South,

  • there was rampant voter suppression of Black Americans.

  • It started back when the 15th Amendment granted Black men the right to vote in 1870.

  • That right was enforced by federal troops, who occupied the southern states

  • during a period known asReconstruction.”

  • But what happened after Reconstruction, was that the states passed a number of laws

  • that effectively disenfranchised African Americans.

  • Of course, no law could sayno Black people can vote” — it had to be a little sneakier.

  • Like the "grandfather clause," where you could only vote if your grandfather could vote.

  • Which is impossible if your grandfather was a slave.

  • There were literacy tests, where voters, mostly Black voters,

  • had to answer bizarre questions before they were allowed to vote.

  • Not just tests to see whether or not you could read,

  • but things like, could you recite the state's constitution?

  • And poll taxes, requiring voters, again mostly Black voters, to pay to be allowed to vote.

  • They selectively chose who had to abide by these rules.

  • In the 1950s and 60s, Congress passed several civil rights laws

  • that attempted to protect voting rights, getting rid of things like poll taxes.

  • Still, by 1964, in Mississippi, barely 7% of nonwhite Americans could vote.

  • Selma's Bloody Sunday drew attention to that.

  • It made Americansand Congresswonder if local officials,

  • like these guys,

  • could really be trusted to enforce these new civil rights laws.

  • So Congress wrote another one.

  • Ten days after Selma, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was introduced.

  • It added additional protections, got rid of literacy tests...

  • But it also had a way to prevent any other creative changes:

  • State governments had to submit their changes to the federal government for approval.

  • The Voting Rights Act identified parts of the country that had a history of voter discrimination,

  • mostly in the South, and set up federal oversight.

  • So if these places wanted to change anything about voting,

  • like enacting a new law, or closing polling locations,

  • it first had to get the okay from the US Justice Department, or federal courts,

  • that it wasn't discriminatory.

  • Immediately, nonwhite voter registration in these Southern states grew.

  • Like in Mississippi, where it went from barely 7% to almost 60% in just three years.

  • The Voting Rights Act did what earlier civil rights laws hadn't.

  • But in 2013, the Supreme Courtwith a majority of Republican-appointed judges

  • took on a case about the Voting Rights Act.

  • They decided that the way the law calculated which states would have that federal oversight

  • was outdated and therefore unconstitutional.

  • "No one doubts that there is still voting discrimination in the South and in the rest of the country.

  • We do, however, find that the coverage formula in Section 4 violates the Constitution."

  • Almost immediately, voting laws that had previously been denied for being discriminatory

  • were enacted in these states.

  • Literally the same day as the Supreme Court's decision, Texas did just that,

  • announcing a voter ID law that a federal judge had previously rejected,

  • because it was "the most stringent in the country,"

  • andimposed strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor."

  • Other states enacted voter ID laws, too.

  • Along with other measures that had previously been stopped, like purging voter rolls,

  • and closing polling locations:

  • 1,173 places in total.

  • 750 just in Texas.

  • An analysis by the Guardian looked at the 50 Texas counties

  • that gained the most Black and Hispanic residents from 2012-2018,

  • and the 50 Texas counties that gained the fewest Black and Hispanic residents.

  • In these counties, the combined population fell by 13,000 over that time.

  • And 34 of their polling places were closed.

  • In these counties, the combined population grew by 2.5 million people.

  • But 542 of their polling places were closed.

  • Many officials in these states say changes like these aren't intended to disenfranchise specific voters.

  • But there's no way to really know.

  • What we do know is that almost all these states' governments are controlled by Republicans.

  • And the groups who tend to be disenfranchised by these changes are more often poor people

  • and people of color.

  • Most of whom tend to vote Democratic.

  • Even when they're saying it's not, it's very hard to believe that, in fact,

  • they didn't have a strategic discussion

  • about how they could minimize the Democratic Party's vote.

  • In the Supreme Court decision, the Chief Justice told Congress it's okay to have oversight,

  • just don't base it on old data.

  • "Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes speaks to current conditions."

  • And so in 2019, the House of Representatives did just that,

  • passing a new bill to update the criteria for which states get federal oversight.

  • John Lewis, then a congressman in his 17th term, presided over the vote.

  • But the bill passed almost entirely along party lines.

  • Almost no Republicans voted for it, and nearly every Democrat did.

  • Then the bill moved to the Republican-held Senate, where it isn't going to get a vote.

  • And even if it does pass the Senate, the Trump White House has threatened to veto it,

  • arguing the oversight is unnecessary.

  • But the House, Senate and White House are all up for grabs in the 2020 election.

  • And this is one of the many areas the two presidential candidates have polar opposite views:

  • "Pass the bill to restore the Voting Rights Act.

  • It's one of the first things I'll do as president if elected."

  • In 2020, John Lewis died.

  • The bill whose passage he'd presided over was renamed in his memory.

  • If the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act becomes law,

  • its formula would restore federal oversight for several states.

  • Including Texas.

  • It's like, if there are no rules to the game,

  • then no one can really play the game.

When Joseph Johnson went to vote in his first presidential election...

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What long voting lines in the US really mean

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/09/17
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