Fifty years ago this month, hundreds of "outside agitators" went to Mississippi to register black voters as part of "Freedom Summer." (Full Disclosure: I was one of them.) This was risky business. On June 21, three of these civil rights workers—two white and one black—were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan and buried in an earthen berm where they were not found for six weeks after an intensive hunt coordinated by the FBI.
They weren't, by far, the first civil rights workers to be murdered for trying to register black voters in the Jim Crow South. But their disappearance shadowed the volunteers wherever they went in Mississippi that summer. And despite the national media attention, Freedom Summer volunteers were harassed, jailed and made to believe by attitudes and casual statements of white citizens and police that they could vanish as well.
These days, the abolished Jim Crow laws are being replaced with tricky new techniques, something certain to have an impact on the voting behavior of African Americans and other people of color in the South. That's on top of the fact that large numbers of these citizen already do not register.
This week, former NAACP chief Ben Jealous, who supervised the massive door-to-door registration effort in 2012 and is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, released a report on Monday evaluating the voter registration situation in the South, True South: Unleashing Democracy in the Black Belt 50 Years After Freedom Summer. It examines today's situation in terms of what the lessons of Freedom Summer can teach organizers today.
With 3.7 million unregistered African Americans and 4 million unregistered Latinos and Asian Americans in the 13 "Black Belt" states from Delaware to Texas that have had large black populations since slave times, there are tremendous opportunities for changing the outcome of elections in many of those states where the conventional wisdom says people of color have no chance of winning:
“True South” takes a long view of history, drawing lessons from the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, when civil rights activists risked their lives to register voters in the racial powder keg of 1960′s Mississippi. While community organizers today do not have to deal with lynchings and church burnings, they do have to work around voter suppression laws—which are more prevalent in states where minorities turn out vote. Jealous believes that the most important lesson from Freedom Summer is a timeless one: voter registration can overcome voter suppression.Below the orange gerrymander are more stories about the war on voting and resistance to it.
Jealous’ report shows what would happen in each Black Belt state if certain portions of the unregistered voters of color were registered to vote. Registering 60% of black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters would “upset the balance of power” in eight of the Black Belt states: Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. In a presidential election year, when turnout is higher, Alabama would be added to that list.
If there’s one thing elections officials pray for, it’s wide margins on Election Day.• MALDEFF, NHLA urge support for Voting Rights Act Amendment. The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and National Hispanic Leadership Agenda have issued a new report discussing the impact of voter discrimination on Latinos and the need for doing something about it, including supporting the Voting Rights Act Amendment, which is stalled in Congress. The bipartisan VRAA was introduced to overcome some of the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act in the Shelby County v. Holder case last year.
A clear and convincing election result allows final tallies to be announced. Winners receive congratulations, losers give concession speeches and everyone else returns to work.
But that’s not what’s happening this year.
• DC District Court smacks down Texas high-stepping over fees. The court's ruling doesn't mince words. Here's the one-paragraph introductory opinion of the 24-page ruling:
This matter presents a case study in how not to respond to a motion for attorney fees and costs. At issue is whether defendant-intervenors, who prevailed in Voting Rights Act litigation before a three-judge panel, may recoup attorney fees and costs even though the Supreme Court vacated that opinion in light of the Supreme Court’s subsequent decision in a different lawsuit that declared a section of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. A quick search of the Federal Reporter reveals the complexity of this narrow question. Yet, rather than engage the fee applicants, Plaintiff Texas basically ignores the arguments supporting an award of fees and costs. In a three-page filing entitled “Advisory,” Texas trumpets the Supreme Court’s decision, expresses indignation at having to respond at all, and presumes that the motion for• The Right to Vote: Public radio program Humankind has released a free, downloadable one-hour documentary on the right to vote. You can listen at the Humankind website or download it for free at the link above.
attorney fees is so frivolous that Texas need not provide further briefing in opposition unless requested. Such an opposition is insufficient in this jurisdiction. Circuit precedent and the Local Rules of this Court provide that the failure to respond to an opposing party’s arguments results in waiver as to the unaddressed contentions, and the Court finds that Texas’s “Advisory” presents no opposition on the applicable law. Accordingly, the Court will award the requested fees and costs.
Justice will soon be served for hundreds of Florida voters, after a man from Washington state admitted that he tried to keep local Republicans from turning out in the 2012 presidential election. That man could soon be headed to prison. [...]Opinion
Investigators say Bob Hiering of Delray Beach, a Republican, was one of the targets. "When I got that letter, I was like 'Are you kidding me?'," he said of a letter received just before the 2012 presidential election—with a postmark from Seattle, Washington.
"I got a letter in the mail questioning my citizenship and my ability to vote," said Hiering.
Ohio’s election law banning lying in political campaigns – while perhaps well-meaning—is constitutionally questionable and should be repealed by the General Assembly as soon as possible.• Jamelle Bouie: Mississippi blacks should vote for Thad Cochran.
We’d love to see candidates stop telling lies. However, the First Amendment right to free speech trumps a wish that’s simply unattainable.