Voting Rights in America

by Michael_Koger

This is an analysis of voting rights in the United States. It will focus on the 21st century and therefore include the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

This is an analysis of voting rights in the United States. It will focus on the 21st century and therefore include the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Moreover, it will also consider the State of Alabama and its voting practices during that time. Specifically, it will explore the legal literature and other resources. It will encompass the many claims that Alabama does not allow racial minorities to have reasonable access to vote. There will be a detailed description of voting history in the United States.

United States Elections

     Although the focus will be on the 21st century, it will also review events as far back as the 19th and 20th centuries.  Essentially, there will be examination of disenfranchisement or inability to vote because of felony conviction or incarceration.  The variation of these activities will occur across the country.  At the same time, the inability of women to vote through history is another item of importance as blacks and women were unable to vote for a long time.

Historical Background

     President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  This came just after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which declared that interference with voting was illegal.  The 24th Amendment of 1964 provided further progress for blacks.  These documents declared discrimination against the ability of blacks to vote as illegal.  The United States Department of Justice considered issues such as the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Revisions to the Voting Rights Act occurred in 1970, 1975, 1982, and further changes under President George W. Bush occurred.  Specifically, in 2006, he reauthorized the Voting Rights Act (United States Department of Justice, 2018).

     Ratification of the 15th Amendment took place after the American Civil War which happened from 1861-1865.  Shortly after the Civil War, blacks successfully ran for political office; however, this freedom for blacks led to dissatisfaction from whites.  The 1877 end of Reconstruction brought a change in the U.S. Supreme Court in which this voting protection was with limitation.  Whites then began to occupy most political positions.  By the turn of the 20th century, most blacks were disfranchised or unable to vote.  The 15th Amendment outlawed poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses, and whites-only primaries.  Moreover, the 15th Amendment meant that one could not deny the freedom of blacks to vote because of color, race, or prior condition of servitude (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019).  During the 2016 Presidential election campaign in the United States, Alabama’s Governor, a medical doctor, attempted to close driver’s license offices, and this placed a burden on some minorities in terms of ability to vote (Williams, 2015).

Voting Restrictions

     As disenfranchisement is an issue, one must consider suffrage.  Suffrage is the right that one has for the election of public officials as well as approval or rejection of legislative proposals.  While voting today encompasses adults who are at least 18 and have citizenship in the United States, there were restrictions for women and blacks.  Franchise is freedom from servitude or restraint.  Disfranchise, on the other hand means to deprive someone of a legal right, privilege, or immunity.  Commonly this term is a reference to voting rights or privilege.  Certain groups such as prisoners, former felons, and those on probation do not have the privilege to participate.  However, laws across the United States vary in this regard.  Democracies utilize the voting process to make sure that governments are responsible to the governed.  The work of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton is well-known to Americans as they fought for voting rights of women and blacks.  Frederick Douglass was a former slave who spoke on behalf of these women.  Lucretia Mott was a social activist and a Quaker preacher.  She advocated equal participation for women and men in trades, professions, and commerce.  In 1851, Sojourner Truth, also a former slave, spoke publicly to the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.  She advocated abolitionism and women’s rights.  Despite the success this had on the movement, the Civil War was imminent, and attention of the country somewhat turned away from women’s rights.  Nevertheless, the feminist movement later became active again and did so for several decades.  Stanton and Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869.  In 1920, the work of these ladies led to the 19th Amendment, and women gained the right to vote (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019). 

     Anthony also succeeded in acquiring voting rights for African-Americans under the 14th Amendment.  She voted for the 1872 presidential race in Rochester, New York and was arrested and convicted.  There was also a $25 fine.  Nevertheless, she retired in 1900 at the age of 80, and the 19th Amendment was passed fourteen years later.1

  Notes.  1.  She was the first woman on the United States dollar—this was 1979 (Gordon, 2005).  The actual trial of Anthony is in the Notable Trial Series which Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz has edited for many years (Dershowitz, 2019).

Felony Disenfranchisement

     In some regions of the country, mass incarceration is synonymous with felony   disenfranchisement.  The War on Drugs began four decades ago and led to entry into the criminal justice system.  Since 1980, the felony disfranchisement rate in the United States has increased 500 percent.

     In Maine and Vermont, there is no felony disfranchisement regardless of whether incarceration has taken place.  Disenfranchisement, therefore, does exist in the other 48 states.  Specifically, their voting rights are suspended during incarceration, but they may apply for reinstatement after they leave prison.  Four states in the United States implement long-term disenfranchisement.  They are Iowa, Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia.  Albeit some describe this as permanent disenfranchisement, it is possible for them the apply for reinstatement after release from prison.  However, this procedure may take several years in Florida because there are thousands of applications in process.  For this reason, some describe Florida’s system as racializing the process more than any other state in the country (Anderson, 2018,  93-95). 

Specific Case Study

Civil Disobedience

     These disputes, therefore, led to a major legal action which would affect voting rights for at least half a century.  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 includes many techniques to prevent discrimination when people vote.  Rather than utilize federal courts, it encompasses the United States Department of Justice.  The approach in Sumter County entails civil disobedience.  Specifically, they challenge unjust laws and white supremacy.  This method is somewhat like the case of Walker v. City of Birmingham in which Martin Luther King, Jr. challenges his five-day sentence for contempt of court after he and his marchers defy a federal injunction to not demonstrate.  It was a matter of constitutionality. 

     Civil disobedience involves a non-violent approach, and it has a purpose to make the government do something (Merriam Webster Online, 2019).  Another name for this is passive resistance.  Such an approach is well-known in the United States, Africa, and India.    It is especially useful with situations such as labor, anti-war, and other social movements across the globe.  “Civil disobedience is symbolic or ritualistic violation of the law rather than a rejection of the system as a whole.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019).  Nevertheless, these acts are crimes.  They constitute protest.  It also implies that the protester has submitted to punishment.

     At the same time, there is criticism of the philosophy and practice of protest.  The issues include anarchy, the right to break any law that one chooses, social change, and conservative schools of thought.  This complex matter, in fact, stems from Western thought.  These include Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, Henry David Thoreau, Thomas Jefferson, and John Locke.  Much of the 20th century concept of civil disobedience came from Mohandas Gandhi, who fought for freedom and equal rights with the use of campaigns.  The American Civil Rights Movement became prominent around the middle of the 20th century.  This was especially popular for matters such as racial segregation, the Greensboro sit-ins, and the Freedom Rides.  Innately, Martin Luther King had an impact on these movements.  Moreover, civil disobedience gained popularity after its use for international law.  An example of this was the Nürnberg War crime trials.  In most of these instances, there was passive resistance and a goal that would make the government do something to resolve it (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019).

     One must understand that Sumter County blacks did not disobey Alabama laws.  What they disobeyed was the customs.  In fact, local and state officials violated the 15th Amendment.  This led to an unlawful caste system which government officials reinforced.  Essentially, the local and state officials defied federal authority.  The situation is further complicated when few attorneys were willing to represent these black clients.  Such a case would entail a challenge to white supremacy.  Nevertheless, the 1957 Civil Rights Act led to formation of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice (Landsberg, 2003). 

The New Jim Crow

     It is these issues of the Civil Rights Division which lead, therefore, to the thoughts of an author and attorney who has worked for the American Civil Liberties Union.  In her book, The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander describes her experiences as an attorney with post-racialism.  She tells the audience that many believe such a concept does not exist in 21st century America.  This is because some consider the caste system as an issue from decades or even centuries ago.  They  contend that education is prominent today in racial/ethnic minorities and that stories of social differentiation no longer apply (Alexander, 2011).

     Those who believe that education, money, and progress in blacks indicate dissolution of the caste system today contend that slavery has ended.  The problem with this approach is that the presence of free blacks, some of whom were doctors or lawyers during slavery times, existed then as they do now.  Though few of these existed, there were also black slave owners during these challenging times prior to the Emancipation Proclamation (Alexander, 2011). 

     Alexander, however, says that there is a 21st century form of the caste system which disguises itself from the well-known caste system of the past.  She says that mass incarceration during the 20th and 21st centuries is an example of the problem.  Alexander alludes to a poster which describes the drug war as the New Jim Crow.  This lawyer has spent time as an employee of the American Civil Liberties Union.  Her role was Director of the Racial Justice Project.  That experience enabled Alexander to gain quite an interest in America’s criminal justice system and the rights of prisoners.  She describes the situation as racialized social control.  One of the concerns is the diminution of human rights that they encounter once they become part of the criminal justice system.  Examples of discrimination against these clients include exclusion from jury service, voting, housing, and employment.  Some of her interest stems from law school where courtroom victories in civil rights cases especially took place during the middle of the 20th century (Alexander, 2011).   

     Michelle Alexander is mindful of the issues which residents in black neighborhoods encounter.  These include high occurrences of crime among black men.  Aside from criminal records in these residents, there is inadequate education.  There is also much research on racial profiling in these regions of the country, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP, 2019) has participated in these studies.  Complaints of police brutality are well-known across the United States as well as drug law enforcement matters.  The author tells us that the concentration of incarceration in black adults in this country today is higher than it was during the middle of the 19th century (Alexander, 2011).

The 2016 Presidential Race

      Matters of unequal treatment of racial/ethnic minorities will illustrate concerns about the 2016 presidential race.  One year before the 2016 Presidential race began, the United States Supreme Court modified the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  This change occurred 50 years after the Voting Rights Act.  The High Court’s decision focused on Shelby County, Alabama.  Some legal experts believed that the Voting Rights Act was quite a successful civil rights law.  In fact, they suggest that it was the most effective civil rights law that has ever taken place in United States history (Issacharoff, 2016). 

     It is possible that electoral modification may happen when racial issues are present.  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the first step that black voters took in that regard since Reconstruction.  The whole matter of casting a ballot anywhere in the United States had finally become a significant issue in 1965.  With time, the participation of African-Americans in the voting process was greater than it had ever been.  Indeed, minorities in Mississippi may have voted more than whites because of the Voting Rights Act.  Also, since 1965, there has been dramatic increase in black candidates who ran for political office and won (Issacharoff, 2016). 

     Over the decades this progress has reached heights which Americans would have never conceived.  There are changes in the Presidents every four to eight years, and litigation over these matters bring change.  Whereas one may think of voting rights progress as something under the supervision of the federal government, it also has come in the hands of local activists and public interest lawyers (Issacharoff, 2016).

     One of the greatest obstacles with regards to voting rights is white rule.  For example, Mississippi managed to disenfranchise people of color in the United States.  This stemmed somewhat from constitutional reform in 1890.  This combination with literacy tests and grandfather clauses also prevented blacks from voting.  Black Codes were another issue as they required African-Americans to register at two locations.  One was the county seat, and the local municipal registrar was the other place.  This method placed a hardship on poor people who may not have been able to travel 15 miles to register.  Almost one century after the implementation of Black Codes, registration issues were still a major problem (Issacharoff, 2016; Astor, M).

     Another obstacle for voting was minorities who worked in agriculture.  They were under the observation of white overseers who perhaps would not allow them to vote.  There is also a concern in the legal literature that courthouses in southern states have an antebellum structure.  This may remind blacks of lynching and slave markets which remain as unpleasant memories over the years (Issacharoff, 2016). 

     Of course, there has been progress as employers in the 21st century encourage their workers to vote when elections take place.  Today, they even remind the staff several times that they have special time to leave work and go to the polls.   

Alabama 2016 Presidential Race

     There was clearly some concern about the Alabama 2016 presidential election.  It had to do with shutdown of driver’s license offices.  The State of Alabama passed a law such that voters there had to present a government identification to vote.  This was not feasible in 28 counties.  Alabama’s Governor Robert Bentley, a 74-year-old medical doctor, contends that the office closures were a method of budget reduction.  Constituents, on the other hand, say that these measures make it difficult for some voters—especially poor people—to go to the polls and vote (The Guardian, 2015; Astor, 2018). 

     Nevertheless, the controversy over voting continued.  The dramatic changes left many Alabama residents somewhat shocked.  They realized that they might not be able to vote for the 2016 presidential election.  This especially posed a problem for Wilcox County residents which is one of America’s poorest counties as well as Alabama’s poorest.  The situation presented an issue for some residents whose driver’s licenses had expired.  Additionally, Selma, Alabama was 45 minutes away from where they lived, and some offices were further.  Some of the voters were descendants of previous Wilcox County slaves.  One must also remember that during the 1960s, much of the Alabama Civil Rights Movement focused on Selma.   

     Secretary Hillary Clinton, who was running for president in 2016, became aware of Alabama’s voting issues.  Her plan was to speak at the Alabama Democratic Conference Convention.  One of her initial concerns is that offices to register or vote are infrequently open.  The state indicates that this is the result of an $11 million budget cut.  Furthermore, the Alabama government suggests that many of the tools to register and vote are available online.  Secretary Clinton says that the Alabama voting system is “discriminatory and demeaning, and it has to end.”  She wants to see better access to registration and voting polls than there currently is, and 20 days per month with evenings and weekends available.   

Voting Rights Disputes in Georgia

     Secretary Clinton’s concerns resemble the voting situation in Georgia.  Over the last several years, there have still been disputes about freedom of minorities to vote.  Some of this took place when Brian Kemp was Georgia Secretary of State until 2018.  He became Governor of Georgia in 2019.  The disagreements somewhat stem from Representative Stacey Abrams who challenged the availability of voting for some minorities (Barber, 2017).

     In 2010, minorities in Brooks County, Georgia started a campaign, and the result was a new school board which carried a black majority.  News sources suggest that there was an investigation into the voting rights activists, and they received felony charges.  Several years later, they all received acquittals.  There was also an inquiry into the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, a non-profit organization.  The dispute had to do with newly-registered naturalized citizens whose names were not on voter rolls.  After a two-year investigation, no violations on the part of this organization were ever present.

Alabama Voting Controversy

     The Voting Rights Act of 1965 led to significant progress with voting rights equality.  Despite these changes, the United States Supreme Court brought many of those alterations to a halt after the turn of the 21st century.  Specifically, in 2013, certain southern states and a few others were no longer under a requirement to obtain federal review of the voting system.  In that year, for example, Alabama implemented photo identification for those who chose to vote.  Alabama government officials said that these restrictions were necessary as they serve to prevent fraud.  Civil rights activists, on the other hand, contend that these measures worsen the process of voting for racial/ethnic minorities.  They acknowledge also that other states have managed to prevent fraud with the use of bank statements rather than government identification (Astor, 2018).

     Ultimately, the federal government determined that the office closures led to “a disparate and adverse impact on the basis of race.”  Hence, the State of Alabama reopened the driver’s license offices.  However, in January 2016, the State of Alabama received permission to require proof of citizenship for voter registration.  Though this was for state and local elections,  the court did not accept this idea and discarded the restriction (Astor, 2018). 

     In fact, Arizona was the only state in 2016 which necessitated proof of citizenship.  Nevertheless, Kansas attempted to use the same limitation, but the federal district judge denied that request (Astor, 2018).

     It is also true that the idea of proof of citizenship appeared to be unnecessary.  In fact, Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill stated in 2016 that the individuals on voter rolls were all United States citizens (Astor, 2018).

     There is also interesting information about Daphne, Alabama which, in 2016, had a population of 26,000 residents.  That year, the town removed three polling centers—it only had five from the beginning.  This led to a disproportionate situation with blacks in terms of voting access.  There are also news reports from Reuters which support this observation (Astor, 2018).

     Approximately 3,000 polling sites closed from 2012 to 2016.  These closures occurred in Alabama and several other states which had come under federal supervision.  Also, there was a problem with the transfer of money between political action committees.  This began in 2010 and was still in effect in 2018.  The situation appeared to damage the operation of black organizations as the recruitment of employees did not go smoothly.  The same applied to advertisements (Astor, 2018).

     The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has participated in these controversies over voting.  For example, in 2017, Alabama officials sent postcards to all registered voters.  The result was that 340,000 were inactive, and this placed the voters in danger of losing their voting rights.  In essence, there was a U.S. Senate special election at that time, and poll staff restricted these inactive voters to the use of provisional ballots (Astor, 2018).

     The situation of convicted felons is complex, and it varies across the United States.  One interesting snippet is the time when Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill refused to publicize the names of felons who had regained the right to vote after Governor Kay Ivey reinstated them (Astor, 2018).  Ivey has been Alabama’s governor since 2017. 

State of New York

     Deep southern states, of course, are not the only regions where residents believe that voting rights should be reinstated when the prison term is complete.  In fact, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued an executive order to facilitate that.  Specifically, in 2018 he has enabled 35,000 former inmates regain their voting rights and effect a smooth transition to society upon the end of the prison sentence.  These are all former inmates who have had felony convictions (Klepper, 2018).

     A similar approach has been beneficial in perhaps a dozen states.  For example, in the nation’s capital, the release of parolees grants them the right to vote again.  This approach in New York, however, has led to objection from Republicans who say that Cuomo’s method is illegal.  They and others in the community believe that the Governor’s maneuver bypasses lawmakers (Klepper, 2018).

     At the same time, the Governor realizes that some former inmates need supervision.  Hence, the return of certain rights for them may not be easy as these cases will vary with the individual.  Cuomo says that removal of rights disproportionately affects racial/ethnic minorities who serve time.  This is especially the case with African-Americans and Latinos which comprise nearly 75 percent of New York parolees (Klepper, 2018).

     An interesting snippet is from Myrna Perez, who is deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.  She asserts that the Governor’s method is a good one (Klepper, 2018).

Is the Voting Rights Act of 1965 Outdated?

     With all this controversy over voting rights over the decades, one may consider the possibility that the Voting Rights Act requires modification.  It may be conceivable that by the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Supreme Court imposed some limitations on it during the Obama Administration.  This may be because some considered it to be less relevant than it was in the past.  In other words, some contend that America has improved its race relations, and the restrictions that came with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 may necessitate some adjustment (Liptak, 2012).

     In 2012, therefore, the High Court accepted a case to explore some of these issues.  They noted, of course, that over the years, there was extension of the restrictions which largely affected Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.  Aside from these nine states which have been under federal supervision, there were several municipalities and counties which had restrictions on the process of voting.  Essentially, these regions of the country could not implement changes in the voting process without preclearance from the United States Department of Justice or a federal court.  These matters have to do with Section 5 of the law, and it became a focus of this legal action (Liptak, 2012).

     Moreover, in 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld changes which the Voting Rights Act of 1965 implemented (Liptak, 2018).

     The question, therefore, became an issue of constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and whether its presence was still necessary or even applicable to the 21st century.  Civil Rights advocates suggested that there were still problems with voter identification as well as matters of reduction in early voting.  Some said that despite progress with civil rights, America was still a Jim Crow environment in disguise (Liptak, 2018).   

America’s View of Voter Fraud

     A random-digit dialed telephone survey with more than a thousand respondents suggests that almost half of Americans believe that voter fraud takes place “somewhat often.”  The data collection took place in September of 2016 in a Washington Post-ABC News Poll.  These results were controversial with other similar studies, and some believed that the 2016 presidential race poll would have an accurate count.  In fact, 63 percent of voters believed this would be true (Guskin and Clement, 2016).

     The occurrence of voter concerns of this nature varies with the political party as well as the presidential candidates.  For example, more than two-thirds of Trump voters believed that issues of fraud took place commonly.  On the other hand, Clinton supporters for the 2016 presidential race were less likely than Trump supporters to say that this was a problem (Guskin and Clement, 2016).  The explanation for this discrepancy may have to do with sample size and other aspects of the cohort that participates.

     In fact, there are studies which suggest that voter fraud prevalence estimates are controversial.  It is clear, however, that there are changes in these parameters with each U.S. presidential election.  For example, the 2016 data is much different from the 2004 race between George Bush and John Kerry.  In that case, Kerry supporters were more likely than Bush supporters to believe that vote counting results would not be reliable.  Another well-known case was the 2000 U.S. presidential race between George Bush and Al Gore.  This contest led to Bush’s victory not only in Florida but also for the presidential election.  It was a situation in which the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a manual count in Florida (Guskin and Clement, 2016).

Gerrymandering and Political Advantage

     There is much in the literature about gerrymandering and political elections.  It is not a new topic as the term came in use as early as the year 1812.  Secondary school social science teachers have long taught students about this controversial issue (Lieb, 2017).

     Merriam-Webster Online defines gerrymander as a method in which there is division or arrangement that involves a territorial unit and election districts.  The result is that one of the political parties has an unfair advantage.  For example, there may be a government which gerrymanders urban districts and then develops rural majorities.  It is possible to gerrymander a school district.  Also, there are racial gerrymanders (Lieb, 2017).

     There are many research centers which have examined these situations.  The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law has performed statistical analyses of congressional elections for the time 2012 to 2016.  Investigators believe there is a Republican advantage.  They even say that this is a threat to democracy (Lieb, 2017).

     Another organization is the Princeton University Gerrymandering Project which conducts mathematical operation for the detection of unfair outcomes with district maps.  Of course, the objective of this organization is like others which perform that type of investigation—prevention of partisan gerrymandering (Lieb, 2017).

     Notwithstanding that some of these cases have made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, it may be difficult for them to define what is unconstitutional in terms of partisan map manipulation.  The whole controversy continues when researchers see partisan gerrymandering that continues to take place (Lieb, 2017).  The significance of gerrymandering may be a function of sample size, method of data collection, and statistical validity.

     Two items of interest are descriptive for types of gerrymandering.  One form is “packing,” and it refers to a concentration of votes.  “Cracking,” on the other hand, entails the spread of opposition party supporters, and this leads to a dilution of votes.  These maneuvers result in a disadvantage for one of the parties.  There is also a statistical term “efficiency gap,” and it has to do with the question—does gerrymandering really help or hurt a certain political party?  Some politicians say the party that loses the election brings its own troubles.  Others contend that gerrymandering is real and has existed for many decades (Lieb, 2017).

Whither Cyber-Espionage?

     Despite these many issues, one must still visit the controversies of Russian collusion.  The 2016 presidential race has been a hot topic in the news over the last two years.  There are accusations of Russian hacking as well as reports of online voting trials.  The trials are ways of facilitating voting for military personnel who are overseas.  Unfortunately, there is evidence that these approaches may lead to hacking and cyber-attacks.  This may illegally change the voting process (Berman, 2017).

     One researcher, J. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan, believes there is Russian interference.  For example, in the 2016 presidential race, this includes hacking of the Democratic National Committee e-mails.  In fact, there may be 21 states which were subject to these instances of interference (Berman, 2017).

     At the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Jeanette Manfra suggests that hackers have stolen 90,000 voter-registration records of Illinois residents.  She also says the same occurred with driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers.  Moreover, there was a breach of voter-registration lists in Arizona (Berman, 2017).

     Senate hearings reveal that these events are evidence of well-planned actions.  Indeed, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s assistant director, Bill Priestap, indicates there is no doubt about these claims.  In any event, there are many experts who believe that America’s voting system is a dangerous one.  It is possible to inject malicious software regardless of whether voting machines have a connection to the Internet (Berman, 2017).

     Nevertheless, the intelligence community says that Russian hacking has never changed votes.  At the same time, Lawrence Norden, who works at New York University Brennan Center for Justice, postulates that no one really knows what happened during the 2016 election (Berman, 2017).

     President Trump has said many times that claims of Russian hacking are “fake news.”  Halderman, on the other hand, recommends routine audits of ballots, regular threat assessments, and records of all votes on paper (Berman, 2017).

     Massachusetts Institute of Technology has conducted a study of these matters and observed that 12 percent of the 2016 electorate had problems with voting.  Registration was somewhat difficult, and there were long lines at the polls.  Additionally, voting machines may not have operated well (Berman, 2017).

     With all this cross-fire, the situation in Kansas further illustrates the confusion of presidential races.  For example, in 2017, several states implemented voter suppression approaches.  Several states passed new voter identification laws.  Kansas’ Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, issued a requirement that proof of citizenship was necessary for registration.  Such an approach is unwise because few people will carry their naturalization papers, passport, or birth certificate.  Kobach also sent a request to all 50 states, and he requested voter data, Social Security numbers, party affiliation, military status, and felony convictions.  Nearly every state in the country denied his request.  Were the federal government to execute such a plan, it might lead to disenfranchisement of millions of voters (Berman, 2017).

 

 

 

Conclusion

     This has been an extensive assessment of voting rights in America.  Although the Voting Rights Act of 1965 occurred more than a half century ago, there has obviously been much debate about its validity.  Laws vary across the country and have led to dispute and various approaches to the procedure.  This is problematic because the requirements from the United States Department of Justice must be followed with a certain degree of uniformity.  It is noteworthy that efforts to change the Voting Rights Act at times stem from what the current U.S. President believes is best.  These matters have already gone before the U.S. Supreme Court.  In any event, there is still much work to do for resolution of these differences.

     The thesis for this lengthy paper is quite complex.  There are accusations from scholars and other civil rights organizations that blacks receive unfair treatment with regards to voting.  Much literature and protests about women’s voting rights have reached the news media over the decades.  There is sound evidence that some states have made efforts successfully to prevent voting rights for disadvantaged individuals such as prisoners.

     Were these claims untrue, there would not be a Voting Rights Act of 1965, and it would not have endured for more than half a century.  Moreover, there would not be a connection to the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.  There would not be news stories about poll taxes, literacy tests, and whites-only primaries for so many decades.  Disputes over government identification and closure of driver’s license offices do not occur without a reason. 

     Sumter County, Alabama poses a challenge to lawyers and clients.  People who have consulted attorneys for this type of assistance discover that few if any are willing to represent them.  Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow is another example of obstruction from the white power system.  Much of Alexander’s concern centers around voting, caste system, and the correctional system’s effect on blacks.  Classes in African-American Studies have reiterated for years that housing, voting, jury service, and employment have long been matters of concern for minorities.

Awareness in schools, universities, churches, and other organizations has grown over the decades, and progress is possible when the country unites to address these many issues.

References

1.  Encyclopedia Britannica.  (2019).  Voting Rights Act United States 1965.  

2.  United States Department of Justice.  (2018).  History of federal voting rights laws.  

3.  Williams, V.  2015.   Amid voting rights criticism, Alabama partially backs off plan to close driver license office.  The Washington Post.  Academic One File.

4.  Encyclopedia Britannica (2019).  Suffrage.

5.  Merriam Webster Online (2019).

6.  Anderson, C.  (2018).  One person, No vote.  New York:  Bloomsbury Publishers.

7.  Gordon, A.  (2005).  The Trial of Susan B. Anthony.  Federal Judicial Center.  Federal Judicial History Office.

8.  Encyclopedia Britannica.  (2019).  Civil disobedience.  

9.  Landsberg, B.  (2003).  Sumter County, Alabama and the origins of the Voting Rights Act.  Alabama Law Review, 54, 877.

10.  Encyclopedia Britannica. (2019).  Alan Dershowitz.  

11.  Alexander, M.  (2011).  Symposium:  Mass incarceration:  Causes, consequences, and exit strategies:  The New Jim Crow.  Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, 9, 7.

12.  National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  (2019).  Give us the ballot.  

13.  Stack, L.  (2016).  The 2016 Presidential race, explain.  The New York Times.  

14.  Issacharoff, S.  (2016).  Voting rights at 50.  Alabama Law Review, 67, 387.

15.  The Guardian.  (London, England).  (2015).  "'Driving is a privilege, voting is a right': Alabama license-office cuts bite deep; Governor says office closures are cost-cutting measures but opponents say they are an effort toward disenfranchisement that harkens back to state's painful past."  General OneFile.   

16.  Merica, D.  (2015).  Clinton to call Alabama voting rights decision ‘discriminatory.’  CNN Wire.  (2015).  Business Insights:  Essentials.

17.  Barber, R.  (2017).  Is Georgia’s secretary of state unjustly targeting voting rights activists again?  Facing South.  

18.  Copyright 2019.  All rights reserved.  Michael Koger, Sr.

Updated: 05/17/2019, Michael_Koger
 
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