Civil rights icon US Representative John
Lewis, who died of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, spent his life
advocating equal access to the ballot for all Americans. Lewis nearly
lost his life on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, when he attempted to
lead a nonviolent voting-rights march from Selma to Montgomery. He
was beaten at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, resulting in a
To honor Lewis's life and legacy,
Democratic lawmakers want the 2019 Voting Rights Advancement Act
passed he fought for, and name it the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act
of 2020. The bill would reverse the deleterious damage done by the
2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision that invalidated a key portion
of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Since the passing of the
1965 Civil Rights Voting Act giving African Americans the ballot, the
GOP has had ongoing tactics to suppress minority voting. Such old Jim
Crow tactics like literacy tests, poll taxes, and Grandfather clauses
have given way to these new tactics- random voter roll purging,
changing polling locations, changing polling hours or eliminating
early voting days, reducing the number of polling places, packing
majority-minority districts, dividing minority districts, and the
notorious voter ID laws that disproportionately disenfranchise
minority voters. They are all part and parcel of the Republican
In 2000, the outcome of the presidential race
between Democratic Vice President Al Gore and Republican Texas
Governor George W. Bush was decided in a recount of Florida ballots
due to hanging chads. In predominately black voting precincts, which
are overwhelmingly Democratic, it was reported that piles of ballots
were left uncounted. The U.S. Civil Rights Commission reported that
of ballots invalidated by Florida officials, 53 percent were cast by
black voters. The Florida vote was settled in Bush's favor winning
him the presidency. His brother Jeb was governor at the time.
2013, by a 5-to-4 Republican majority, the U. S. Supreme Court case
"Shelby County v. Holder" eviscerated Section 4 of the 1965
Voting Rights Act. Section 4 identified problematic voting precincts
with shameful histories of racial discrimination. Not surprisingly,
these precincts are predominately GOP strongholds. The Court ruled
that Section 4 of the VRA was outdated. Section 4 historically
protected African Americans and other disenfranchised people of
color. The ruling contests a fictive post-racial premise that racial
minorities, especially in the South, no longer confront
discriminatory barriers voting, because Obama was president. At the
time, the 1965 VRA applied to nine states in South—Alabama,
Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina,
Texas, and Virginia.
While many of us would like to think
voter suppression only happens in the South, let me disabuse you of
the notion with the scores of counties and municipalities in the
North, like NYC, the Bronx, and my borough of Brooklyn that was
covered in the 1965 VRA, too.
However, after the "Shelby
County v. Holder" decision, NC targeted black voters "with
almost surgical precision" since the black vote increased by
51.1 percent in the state in 2000, and blacks had a higher voter
turnout with Obama on the ballot in both 2008 ad 2012 presidential
In 2018, the epic gubernatorial battle between
Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams and Republican candidate Brian
Kemp was a brazen example of how Republican "power grab"
works in Georgia. Kemp, while running for governor, was Georgia's
secretary of state. As Georgia's secretary of state, Kemp oversaw
Georgia's elections and was responsible for the "exact match"
policy. The "exact match" policy states that a voter
application must "exactly match" their social security or
driver's license information. According to the Associated Press,
53,000 applications were put on hold, of which 70% were black voters.
GOP tactics to dissuade people of color to the polls
posed challenges for many transgender voters who transitioned, and
may not have had
a government-issued photo ID reflecting their gender.
According to the Williams Institute, of the 137,000
transgender people who have transitioned and were eligible to vote,
approximately 57 percent (78,000) may not have had the appropriate
Last year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
voiced opposition to making Election Day a federal holiday. However,
allowing American voters a more relaxed and stress-free trip to their
voting precincts should be a no-brainer. And, H.R.1-For the People
Act of 2019 would do just that. He mocked the legislation as the
"Democrat Politician Protection Act."
would "expand Americans' access to the ballot box, reduce the
influence of big money in politics, and strengthen ethics rules for
public servants, and other purposes." The bill would improve
access for voters with disabilities and voter turnout. It'd reform
automatic voter registration and felon re-enfranchisement. In other
words, H.R.1 would modernize a century-old bankrupt voting system to
mirror America today; thus, allowing for a participatory democracy.
Lewis said, "Never, ever be afraid to make some
noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble." To honor John
Lewis, good trouble this November election would be to vote out our
present Republican thugocracy. As voters, we don't have to capitulate
to the powers that be, because the power of the people is greater
than the people in power.