"I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." Fannie Lou Hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer was a civil rights activist who fought for the right to vote in the 1960's. She faced many trials including being jailed and severely beaten. She fought not only the racists in the Southern States that did not want blacks to vote...but also her own Democratic Party that did not want to seat her "Freedom Democrats" at the 1964 convention -- instead choosing to appease the all-white Southern delegation.
Hamer was indeed a tireless fighter for voting rights, and her famous quote is: "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." She is long gone but the fight continues, particularly after the Supreme Court overturned a key section of the Voting Rights Act.
Southern states (and some in the North that are controlled by conservative-leaning Governors or Legislators) are chomping-at-the-bit to restrict voting for large segments of the populace. Specifically, the groups that tend to favor Democrats. They say they are combating voter fraud...although there is little voter fraud taking place.
North Carolina struck last week with their own 'voter restriction bill.' North Carolina Policy Watch summarizes the draconian 'anti-voter' items in the bill:
- "The end of pre-registration for 16 & 17 year olds
- A ban on paid voter registration drives
- Elimination of same day voter registration
- A provision allowing voters to be challenged by any registered voter of the county in which they vote rather than just their precinct
- A week sliced off Early Voting
- Elimination of straight party ticket voting
- A provision making the state's presidential primary date a function of the primary date in South Carolina
- A provision calling for a study (rather than a mandate) of electronic candidate filing
- An increase in the maximum campaign contribution to5,000 (the limit will continue to increase every two years with the Consumer Price Index from the Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- A provision weakening disclosure requirements for "independent expenditure" committees
- Authorization of vigilante poll observers, lots of them, with expanded range of interference
- An expansion of the scope of who may examine registration records and challenge voters
- A repeal of out-of-precinct voting
- A repeal of the current mandate for high-school registration drives
- Elimination of flexibility in opening early voting sites at different hours within a county
- A provision making it more difficult to add satellite polling sites for the elderly or voters with disabilities
- New limits on who can assist a voter adjudicated to be incompetent by court
- The repeal of three public financing programs
- The repeal of disclosure requirements under "candidate specific communications."
The only provision missing from this list is the infamous Grandfather Clause limiting voting to only those whose ancestors could vote before the Civil War.
The GOP-led state house in North Carolina seems determined to take away the vote from what many call the 'Obama-coalition' of black, brown, elderly minorities, women, and youth voters. Some of these new provisions point to outright intimidation tactics coming to the polls in North Carolina, such as: "allowing voters to be challenged by any registered voter of the county in which they vote rather than just their precinct."
Just prior to the Governor's signature of this bill the UK Guardian headline read: "North Carolina Republicans slammed over 'suppressive' voting bill" and stated:
"North Carolina is set to introduce what experts say is the most "repressive" attack on the rights of African American voters in decades, barely a month after the US supreme court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act."
Salon's Joan Walsh reports: "New war begins: Beating voting rights bigots" and suggests Attorney General Eric Holder may be the last line of defense for voting rights for all Americans. She states that the Administration is looking to the Justice Department to fight some of these new measures aimed at restricting voting. Walsh summarizes by saying:
"It's a shame we have to defend rights we already fought for and won, rather than securing new rights, but history usually involves a two steps forward, one step back kind of progress. I'm hoping that voting rights defenders can put together a bipartisan coalition to restore Section 4 or some other kind of preclearance power to the Justice Department, but even without it, I'm glad the southern triumphalists know they can't push their agenda without some legal pushback."
I agree with her...it is a shame we are still fighting these battles. However, now is not the time to be "sick and tired." We must continue in Fannie Lou Hamer's footsteps.
Fannie Lou Hamer in 1964. From Wikipedia.