America Needs a “Right to Vote,” as Georgia Proves Jim Crow Never Completely Ended

The right to vote is more important then owning property or guns

Photo by Parker Johnson on Unsplash

This week, Georgia passed the most restrictive voter suppression legislation since Jim Crow. In actuality, the Georgia legislature proves that Jim Crow never completely ended. It’s alive and well today, in part, and its principal proponent is the GOP.

The two bills end automatic voter registration, ban drop boxes for absentee ballots and radically curtail mail-in voting. They also make illegal “Souls to the Polls” on some weekends, a tradition that has led to about 10 times more African Americans than white people voting on Georgia Sundays near Election Day.

And Georgia is just the first among many Republican-controlled states that are planning to do the same and more.

America needs an absolute right to vote, like most other major democracies.

One legacy of slavery is that our Constitution does not contain an absolute right to vote for all citizens who have achieved the age of majority.

Because we don’t have a right to vote, Red State governors can radically cut back on the number of polling places and voting machines so that working class people are forced to stand in line for five, six, in some cases last year 11 hours to vote.

Because we don’t have a right to vote, legislators in Georgia could make it a crime to give a bottle of water or a slice of pizza to somebody they have forced to stand in line for 11 hours to vote.

Because we don’t have a right to vote, about 30 million registered voters nationwide have been removed from the voting rolls since 2014, so when they show up to vote they are given “provisional ballots“ that, in Red States, are often never counted unless there is a lawsuit.

Because we don’t have a right to vote, back in the 1960s William Rehnquist helped organize “Operation Eagle Eye“ in Arizona to pull together a volunteer army of large and often uniformed white men to challenge Black, Hispanic, and Native American voters at the polls. It was so successful it kicked off Rehnquist’s political career, taking him all the way to Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, and is now on the verge of being re-legalized by this generation’s Supreme Court.

Because we don’t have a right to vote, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis was able to prevent almost a million Florida citizens from voting if they owed fines or fees to the government.

Because we don’t have a right to vote, Louis DeJoy could destroy the US Post Office and slow down the mail just in time for the election and not face any legal consequences.

Because we don’t have a right to vote, in 2000 then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush was able to take a felon list from then-Texas governor George W. Bush and compare it to the Florida voter list, throwing about 90,000 African-Americans off the voting rolls because they had “similar” names just before the election that his brother “won” in Florida by 537 votes.

Because we don’t have a right to vote, the Supreme Court told the Republican governor of Ohio — and now all governors — that he could remove millions of registered voters from the rolls because they hadn’t voted in the previous election and didn’t mail back a postcard.

Because we don’t have a right to vote, Red State legislators have been able to force through laws requiring citizens to jump through extraordinary hoops like getting IDs they normally wouldn’t need or use, just to vote.

Because we don’t have a right to vote, Republicans in multiple states are making it extremely difficult to vote by mail or drop off your ballot at a convenient dropbox during a pandemic.

We do, however, have other rights.

Our property rights are totally intact. If the government wants to take away your house or your car because, for example, you didn’t pay your taxes, they have to go to court to do it.

Taking away our votes should be as tough a job for Republicans as taking away our homes or our guns.

Our gun rights are strong. If the government wants to take away your guns, they have to go to court and prove their case in front of a judge.

Our marriage rights are solid, at least until Amy Coney Barrett weighs in. If a government official tries to deny you a marriage license today, that person can be sued or, in some states, even go to jail.

Our free speech rights have been so expanded that the Supreme Court has ruled that if billionaires want to buy politicians, that is totally legal and considered “free speech.”

Our right to due process is still respected in America. If the government wants to put you in prison, they have to go before a jury of your peers and prove their case.

Voting, however, is not and never has been a right in America. Which is why the largest part of the Republican election strategy next year is to prevent people from voting, and to try to block their vote from being counted after it’d been cast.

It’s why Republican-controlled state after Republican-controlled state is passing legislation to make it harder for anybody but middle- and upper-middle class white people to vote.

Taking away our votes should be as tough a job for Republicans as taking away our homes or our guns.

Democrats in the House passed HR1, the For The People Act, that goes along way toward making it easier to vote, establishing national standards for voting, securing our votes, and ensuring transparency in the voting process. But it still does not guarantee an absolute right to vote.

America needs a 28th Amendment that establishes an absolute right to vote for all citizens who’ve achieved the age of majority.

While we’re working on that, we also need laws that assert the right to vote in such emphatic language that courts can enforce it and reverse decades of Republican voter suppression; HR1 is a great start, although the Republicans have already committed to filibustering it in the Senate.

We need a constitutional right to vote that is as strong as our constitutional rights to own property, own a gun, and get married.

Only then can America call itself a functioning democratic republic.