Thursday, March 7, 2013

Same Old Trick

            I recently read an article in the New York Times titled “Rig the Vote” by Charles Blow.  The article describes the attempts by lawmakers in several states (Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia) to disrupt the power of the vote.  The Republican lawmakers are trying to pass laws that give the rural areas more influence in the electoral vote than the winner-takes-all approach.  Although this attempt to restructure the Electoral College may no be blatantly racist, the Republican efforts resonate with the endeavors of white southerners in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  Not only are they similar to historical events, the new laws would affect the mostly urban black communities in the United States.
Republican lawmakers are attempting to shift the weight of the vote from the number of popular votes in states to a proportional distribution.  This change would give rural voters a more powerful vote than those in urban areas.  For instance, “if the system had been in effect for the 2012 election, Republican Mitt Romney would have won nine of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes, and President Barack Obama would have won four.” However, one has to keep in mind that President Obama won the state of Virginia’s popular vote by about 150,000 votes and received all thirteen of its electoral votes.  Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia are all states that have similar legislation in the works.  If all of these states changed their voting procedures, the Presidential election would look markedly different.
I cannot help but see a resemblance between these laws and the efforts of white southerners in the post-Reconstruction Era.  We learned in class many of the ways in which whites in the south tried to legally cheat the system.  For example, many states created all-white primaries and some states even created a voter registration test, which many working blacks could not pass.  Paul Bibeau also noticed the connection to history that these laws share.  He, ‘points out a numerical oddity about the effects of the Virginia law that turns out, upon reflection, to be more stinging than funny: “This bill counts an Obama voter as 3/5 of a person.”’  Although these laws may be directed at more political conflicts, these changes continue to impact the African American’s right to vote.  According to the 2010 Census, a majority of blacks lived in or around large urban areas.  Almost 150 years later, African Americans still have to fight for an equal vote, not to mention the other problems with voting that African American communities still face.
Charles Blow and the New York Times bring to light the recent attempts of Republicans to shift the voting power to a smaller group of individuals.  This may be a new technique of voter suppression, but the idea behind it has been around for a long time.  White southerners in the post-Reconstruction Era tried many different ways to prevent African Americans from voting.  These new laws would also still target the largely black urban communities.  

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