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if you did raise your voice by voting, or if you are prevented from voting you have no basis on which to raise your voice and criticize the government for the decisions it makes and directions it goes. Voting is not a replacement for being the cultural conscience, but it is the first step in doing so.


We must raise our voices for the causes we believe in, and facilitate others to do so also. One way we do this is to vote in the United States.

Whenever we hear individuals complain about the direction of our government, the first question we can ask them is, “Did you vote in the last election?” If they say “No,” then  move  negativity into positive social action and facilitate them to register to vote or assist them in getting to the voting booth, so they can vote. Removing barriers to voting is an essential social action available to us here in the U. S. A.



The United States founding principles embrace the ideals of freedom and equality, but the United States is a nation built on systematic racism and suppression of communities of color. We continue with legal Jim Crow policy making in the present, 150 years after the abolition of slavery. Focused and intentional public policy is needed to dismantle long-standing barriers and protect the right to vote for all Americans. In 2020 discriminatory voter purges, modern-day poll taxes, and the revocation of citizenship threaten to upend American democracy


The inability to fully participate in the democratic process by persons of color results in

  • a lack of political power

  • inability to elect candidates with shared values

  • the lack of power to enact public policy priorities

  • exclusion and discrimination in the electoral process

  • 9.5 million American adults (mostly Blacks) lacked full voting rights in 2016

  • Gerrymandering


Voting and Citizenship Were and Are Denied to People of Color


  • United States restricted national citizenship to “free white [people]… of good character.” 85 percent of the nation’s Black population between 1790 and 1860, were unable to vote anywhere in the United States, despite being free


  • Voting was rarely exercised due to fear of retribution in states (like PA) where blacks could vote


  • In the 1857 U.S. Supreme Court decision in ruled that no Blacks could become a citizen of the United States, thus not able to exercise their right to vote.


  • In 1865 Black men were permitted to vote in just six states.


  • The ratification of the 14th and 15th amendments granted citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the country and prohibiting disenfranchisement based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude.


  • Enforcement Acts passed between 1870 and 1871 criminalized voter suppression and provided federal oversight in elections. This took down the KKK related to voter suppression activities.


  • By the end of the 12-year period known as Reconstruction - 1877 - at least 1,510 Black Americans had held elected office on every level of government, including congressional representatives and U.S. senators.  



The Reconstruction Fails


The end of the Civil War marked an inflection point in U.S. history. The destruction of slavery as a legal institution and the passage of the 14th and 15th amendments promised to usher in a new age of American freedom and democracy. With the support of the U.S. Army and

The Freedmen’s Bureau, and the implementation of the  Special Field Order No. 15 facilitated property ownership, education, and political participation for millions of newly freed African Americans.


  • The death of Reconstruction occurred with the election of President Rutherford B. Hayes, resulted in the resurgence of white nationalist violence, systematic disenfranchisement and suppression of Black voters, occupational segregation, and racial discrimination that made black Americans second-class citizens.


  • In 1877, the U.S. troops withdrew from former Confederate states was birth of the Jim Crow which still occurs today. White nationalists waged a war of terror to suppress Black voters and they seized control of Southern state legislatures by:

  • Criminalizing Black residents

  • making vagrancy illegal

  • prohibited people with criminal convictions from voting.

  • Slavery continued with the convict leasing system

  • Black Codes or laws applying only to Black people created a convict slavery system

  • states also adopted poll taxes for voting

  • States adopted English literacy tests for voting which Whites were exempted

  • grandfather clauses were used to allowed anyone who was eligible to vote prior to the 15th Amendment, along with their descendants, to vote in elections.

  • Oregon entered the Union prior to the Civil War with a constitution that explicitly disenfranchised Black and Chinese people and did not ratify the 15th Amendment until 1959—almost 90 years after federal certification.


  • The Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited Chinese immigrants from becoming American citizens and was not repealed until 1943


  • Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa still lack full voting rights today.



Civil Rights Movement


  • Through nonviolent protest, civil disobedience, litigation, and education the black civil rights movement from 1954 to 1965 succeeded in passing the landmark civil rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 that prohibited any practice or procedure that denied or limited a citizen’s right to vote because of their race, color, or membership to a language minority group. It also prevented jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory anti-minority election practices from enacting unfair voting policies. This resulted in the doubling of Black citizens registered to vote.


  • From 1970 to 1980—the total number of Black elected officials in the United States tripled, from just 1,469 to 4,912.



Voting Rights Amendment 


  • The VRA amendments in 1975 and 1992 required certain jurisdictions to provide translated voting materials to prevent discrimination against Americans with limited English. This expanded access to voting for Asian American, Latinx, and Native American voters.



Modern Jim Crow


  • 10% of Native Americans, 15% of Latinos, 7% of Asians and 20% of African Americans experience racial discrimination when trying to vote or participate in politics. (Harvard School of Public Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)


  • innovative new Jim Crow strategies for voter suppression have been developed that make it more difficult to register to vote by preventing registration drives.


  • Felony conviction disenfranchisement was one of the most powerful tools for denying the vote to 6 million mostly Black citizens and the war on drugs targeted people of color for arrest and incarceration.


  • The national voter turnout rate of Black citizens exceeded that of white citizens for the first time in American history in 2012.


  • The 2013 U.S. Supreme Court rulings eliminated core voting rights protections and gave states the green light to suppress voters of colored persons. made Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act essentially unenforceable, allowing states with an overt white supremacy and voter suppression to manipulate their voting policies and procedures without first seeking approval from the Department of Justice.


  • Shelby County v. Holder allowed the imposition of strict voter ID requirements, closing of  polling places, and limited access to early voting that was directly targeting African and Native Americans.


  • The close to 4 million residents of Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa have been denied the vote despite millions of American service members, diplomats, and expatriates living abroad being able to vote using absentee ballots.  This is despite them serving in the military and paying federal taxes.


  • Over 9 million Americans (more than the population of 12 states) are unable to vote is due to the entrenchment of structural racism, exclusion, discrimination, and exploitation more than 150 years after the abolition of slavery.


  • Gerrymandering manipulates district boundaries to keep parties in office or to silence their opposition. This is an abuse of our political system prevents one’s vote from counting. Pennsylvania one of the most gerrymandered states in the country.


  • The 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in allowed states to purge millions of eligible Americans (mostly black) off their voter rolls because they voted infrequently.


  • Despite the 24th Amendment banning poll taxes Florida enacted a modern-day poll tax that prevents former felons in Florida who still owe court fees or fines from voting. Most felons owe $50,000 or more and this disproportionately targets Blacks who are more likely to serve time.

    • Blacks represented 12% of the population but 33% of prisoners.

    • Whites accounted for 64% ofthe population but 30% of prisoners.

    • Hispanics represented 16% of the population but 23% of prisoners.


  • 2019 President Donald Trump declared his intention for an executive order revoking the citizenship of any American with one undocumented parent despite the 14th Amendment, ratified 150 years ago, that guarantees American citizenship for all people born or naturalized in the United States.






History summarized from: ,9/11/20.  Systematic Inequality and American Democracy by Danyelle Solomon, Connor Maxwell, and Abril Castro published August 7, 2019,

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