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Modern Voter Disenfranchisement

by on August 23, 2020

Voter suppression goes far beyond intentionally delaying the Postal Service or removing polling places with an end-goal of creating long lines and making people spend hours in line to vote.

The staff for Common Dreams published a story yesterday that should be – and is not! – front news on every paper. Just a few days ago Tennessee passed a law that makes it a felony to protest and camp on state property; the punishment for committing such a felony is up to six years in prison and the loss of voting rights.

This isn’t one state in the union that’s gone rogue. Twenty other states “punish felons by taking away their right to vote” which is a great excuse to arrest and charge any dissident with a felony. Responses quickly pointed out that the law, inspired by ongoing protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, is racially motivated and the opposite of why American fought a Revolutionary War.

Whether the law would withstand a Constitutional challenge (one would hope it is found unconstitutional!) is beyond the point. State governments increasingly criminalize protest. The criminalization of environmental protest, Deutsche Welle (DW) says began or intensified with Standing Rock protests in 2016. During and following this “States across the US subsequently passed ‘critical infrastructure’ bills that criminalized trespass, and hence protest, around oil pipelines like the Keystone XL.”

NPR, The Intercept, and others agree that criminalizing climate change, fossil fuel, environmental protest began in earnest because of and after Standing Rock. These criminalization efforts have increased during the Trump years. The West Virginia critical infrastructure law “mimics a model policy promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC);” regarding the ability to vote ALEC’s co-founder maintained a white supremacist view that ‘not everyone should vote‘.

Of course, if you want to make sure not everyone can vote you do what you can to suppress the ability of people to vote. If threat of jail and loss of voting rights aren’t enough for people the polling places should be removed, and if that doesn’t work their ability to vote by mail should be impacted. At least, that’s how it appears, as both Republican and Democratic governors have criminalized protest, and the federal government has worked to make voting more difficult.

The amount of effort put in to prevent the votes of non-whites or dissidents is astounding, racially and politically motivated, and is contrary to the premise of American democracy.

From → Law, Security State

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