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Turning the Clock Back on Voting Rights

Julianne Malveaux | 2/27/2013, 11:20 a.m.

Why? Just as the election of 16 African American legislators alarmed the South, so has the election and reelection of President Barack Obama alarmed our nation. His election reminds us all of the power of the vote, and emboldens those who would limit it. That's why several states have passed voter ID legislation requiring people to have an official government ID in order to vote. That's why a 102-year-old Black woman waited more than six hours to vote. That's why some states have consolidated voting places, making people travel further and wait longer to vote. We don't have poll taxes anymore (although forcing people to travel more than an hour and wait more than an hour is an implicit poll tax), nor do voters have to take a fitness test, so the means of voter suppression have been both more and less subtle. It reminds us of why we had the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and in our nation's failure to implement, the Voting Rights Act.

The court heard these arguments on Wednesday, February 27. We must be alarmed and, if we live in states that filed amicus briefs, aware of those who would suppress our vote.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, NC.