By LaKeshia N. Myers
When I was a classroom teacher, to explain the inequity of poll taxes and other ballot-blocking measures that were used in the Jim Crow south, I would give my students the Louisiana voter literacy test. Students had 10 minutes to answer the questions and undoubtedly all of them would fail—because the questions were poorly written and designed for failure. The students, visibly perplexed, would engage in conversations that stemmed from dismay to full-fledged outrage. It was at this time that we would discuss the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) and I would explain how the protections of the VRA made voting accessible to all people, especially African Americans.
Imagine my surprise to learn the state of Georgia is turning back the hands of time. The “Georgia Election Integrity Act of 2021” imposes new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local election boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water. Where Georgia once demanded cash payments to access the ballot, they are now charging the ultimate commodity—time. While the aphorism, “time is money” was first attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the words couldn’t be truer in this situation.
Time is one of the greatest assets we have as Americans. It is precious, and cannot be reclaimed. Georgia, like most states, does not recognize Election Day as a state holiday, meaning businesses and government operations are still open when elections take place. By removing ballot drop boxes and limiting access to absentee voting, the majority of the electorate will be forced to wait in unbearably long lines for extended periods of time. By barring community groups the opportunity to encourage voters to stay in line by providing food and water, it is feasible to assume fewer voters will wait and therefore the voter turnout will be low.
It has been a long held Republican belief that if they can restrict or otherwise hamper key Democratic constituencies (Blacks, college students, etc.) they can easily win elections. This was most evident when looking at Wisconsin during the April 2020 elections. Milwaukee, the largest city (nearly 600,000 people) in the state had five polling locations on Election Day and grossly interrupted early voting opportunities prior to the election. Yet the WOW counties (Washington, Ozaukee, and Waukesha) and smaller municipalities had an abundance of polling locations. Even Madison, the state’s capitol city, which is half the size of Milwaukee, had 66 locations.
When thinking about things like this, I am reminded of Coretta Scott King who said, “Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.” I remember, I was built for this fight and that I have no choice but to continue to ensure equity for all people.