A Short History of the Long Conservative Assault on Black Voting Power

Historians in the News
tags: Republican Party, Reconstruction, Voting Rights Act, voting rights

This past March, John Kavanagh, a Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives, insisted that his antidemocratic position on voting rights was about election security.

"Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they're willing to risk fraud," the lawmaker said, rehashing former President Donald Trump's baseless tub-thumping about mass voter fraud in the November election. "Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don't mind putting security measures in that won't let everybody vote -- but everybody shouldn't be voting."

Then Kavanagh went even further, suggesting that not all eligible voters are of the same quality.

"Not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they're totally uninformed on the issues," he added. "Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well."

Everybody shouldn't be voting. The quality of votes. Kavanagh's support for voting restrictions is part of a much, much broader Republican effort to block access to the ballot box in the wake of President Joe Biden's victory over Trump -- but it's also consistent with a long US history of political machinations intended to ensure power for White men and keep it at a distance for everyone else, most especially Black Americans.

Lawmakers in 47 states have introduced 361 bills this year with provisions that restrict voting access, according to a March 24 tally from New York University Law School's Brennan Center for Justice.

(For a rough comparison: The Brennan Center's tally in early February 2020 identified 35 restrictive bills in 15 states.)

"To paraphrase George Orwell," Columbia University history professor Eric Foner told CNN, "there are those who feel that some voters are more equal than others. And that's an attitude being implemented right now in some legislatures."

To the surprise of no one, much of this maneuvering disproportionately targets voters of color -- in particular Black voters, who played a critical role in helping Democrats secure both the White House and the US Senate.

Read entire article at CNN

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