Saturday, April 28, 2012

Correspondance with Dennis Pilgard about disenfranchisment and the Tea Party


My friend Dennis Pilgard, who does not like Obama and often supports the Tea Party (but also likes Ron Paul), sent me this note from the AARP [the American Association of Retired People] about the disenfranchisement of the old, disagreeing in general with stripping the vote from those who don't have driver's licenses. An address and a bill in your own name should be sufficient to vote; in fact, there should be special provision for the homeless, many of whom are vets as far back as Vietnam and as recently as Iraq and Afghanistan, to vote. For younger people, one has a driver's license since one is often living in one's car...But then, of course, one no longer has an address...

The roots of disenfranchisment, going back a long way in American history, stem from the defeat of gradual emancipation in the American Revolution and the triumph of the slave-owners in the Constitution. In connection with my book, Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War of Independence, I have been discussing with Duncan Campbell, for instance, on "Living Dialogues" on KGNU last week (April 22), the Constitutional and governmental practices that ensured slave-holding through pseudo-enfranchisment (the creation of the unrepresentative senate and the filibuster were two).

Duncan pointed out that for 52 of the 72 years between 1788, the first Presidential election, and 1860 when Lincoln was elected, the President was a slave-owner. The only Presidents then elected to two terms were slave-owners. Jefferson was elected in 1800 because of the article in the Constitution which says that slaves are to be counted as 3/5 of a man to elect their owners (in the 1850s, when the population in bondage numbered 4 million, this produced 2.4 million votes for the "owners" of other human beings).

Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 says: "Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons." Mirroring the racism and denial of many original constructionists, the Tea Party in the House in 2011 insisted on reading the Constitution, but omitted this and 2 other clauses that sanction slavery. (In this, they emulated the pretences of the drafters since the Constitution does not mention bondage by name. They knew the horror: "slavery is abhorrent," Patrick Henry once said, "but I cannot live without it." Shame at the practice of bondage while cleaving to racism is the explanation of the circumlocution then, the omission now).

Justices of the Supreme Court like the infamous Taney of the Dred Scott decision were often Southerners. Garry Wills, in 'Negro President': Jefferson and the Slave Power (2003), traces Andrew Jackson's genocidal policy of "removal' of Native Americans to the votes allocated to the slave-owners, defeating serious resistance from below (h/t Steve Schwartzberg)...*

Here is the AARP note Dennis sent:

Can We Still Vote? Without a valid photo ID,

many older Americans will not be allowed to vote this year by: Marsha Mercer | from: AARP Bulletin | January 1, 2012

The midwife at the 1949 home birth in rural South Carolina delivered a healthy baby girl but didn't file a birth certificate. Donna Jean Suggs grew up, got a Social Security card and found work as a home health aide. Try as she might, though, she couldn't get a birth certificate. That meant she couldn't get a driver's license or register to vote.

[the program does not reproduce photos] You may not be able to vote in 2012 unless you have a government-issued photo ID. — Photo by Alamy
"I fought with them and fought with them," she said of the local and state officials. "I prayed and prayed." In time, said Suggs, 62, who lives in Sumter, S.C., "I gave up on things" — like voting.

Having a driver's license or photo identification card is commonplace for most Americans, but about 11 percent of adult citizens — more than 21 million people — lack a valid, government-issued photo ID, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. Increasingly, this puts their right to vote at risk. A year ago, only Georgia and Indiana required photo ID cards to vote. Since then, 34 states have introduced voter ID laws. Five enacted them, governors in five other states vetoed them, and other states are considering them.

"What's new is the no-photo-no-vote" laws, said Jennie Bowser, a senior fellow specializing in elections at the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures. "The 2010 elections' big shift toward Republican control of state legislatures was certainly a piece of that." Older voters most affected. The trend alarms voting advocates like Lawrence Norden, acting director of the Brennan Center's Democracy Program, who said photo ID laws hit older people, the poor, African Americans and students the hardest. "This is the first time in decades that we have seen a reversal in what has been a steady expansion of voting rights in the United States," Norden said. "There's no question that citizens over 65 will be particularly impacted. The older you get, the more likely you won't have an ID."

Nearly one in five citizens over 65 — about 8 million — lacks a current, government-issued photo ID, a 2006 Brennan Center study found. Most people prove their eligibility to vote with a driver's license, but people over 65 often give up their license and don't replace it with the state-issued ID that some states offer non-driving residents. People over 65 also are more likely to lack birth certificates because they were born before recording births was standard procedure. Strict new photo ID laws could make voting this year more difficult for 3.2 million voters in Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, if the new laws stand, according to the Brennan Center.

Late last month, the Justice Department rejected South Carolina's law for discriminating against minority voters, who it said were nearly 20 percent less likely than white voters to have a government-issued photo ID. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) said she would seek to have the ruling overturned. The department was also reviewing the Texas law.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit has been filed against the Wisconsin law, and other states' photo ID laws face possible legal challenges. In November, Mississippi voters approved an amendment requiring a photo ID, but it must be implemented by the legislature and would not take effect until 2014. In the states with strict photo ID voting laws, voters who show up without photo IDs generally are allowed to vote a provisional ballot that is counted only if the voter brings a photo ID to a government elections office within a few days, and may not be counted at all unless the election is close."

I responded: "Dear Dennis, Thank you very much. This is entirely a 'Republican' strategy in many states that the Tea Party won the governership in 2010 to disenfranchise people, the young, blacks and elderly. And of course older people will perhaps vote more heavily 'Republican' in the likely Presidential election (are more troubled about Obama) but someone, as it were, gets people like Romney a driver's license. The old who are disqualified are perhaps, if one goes in for this grotesque kind of calculation ("let's win elections by disenfranchising voters") likely Obama supporters, but that is unclear. Romney and others could stand up on such matters, but their electoral hopes rest on disenfranchisement…

The fight for one man one vote (or one person one vote) is at the heart of the American project, what makes America decent. It would be very good to send the people who do this a message… All the best, Alan"

*The three-fifths ratio, or 'Federal ratio,' had a major effect on pre-Civil War politics due to the disproportionate representation of slaveholding states relative to voters. For example, in 1793 slave states would have been apportioned 33 seats in the House of Representatives had the seats been assigned based on the free population; instead they were apportioned 47. In 1812, slaveholding states had 76 instead of the 59 they would have had; in 1833, 98 instead of 73. As a result, southerners dominated the Presidency, the Speakership of the House, and the Supreme Court in the period prior to the Civil War. In the important book, 'Negro President': Jefferson and the Slave Power, Garry Wills has argued that without the additional slave state votes, Jefferson would have lost the presidential election of 1800. In addition, as he says at p. 5, "...slavery would have been excluded from Missouri...Jackson's Indian removal policy would have failed...the Wilmot Proviso would have banned slavery in territories won from Mexico....the Kansas-Nebraska bill would have failed...."

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