Daily Press (Sunday) - - Opinion -

So Ge­or­gia vot­ers de­cided against Stacey Abrams as their gover­nor. Maybe.

With all the shenani­gans per­pe­trated by Repub­li­cans in that state, we’ll never know for sure. Had they not passed a re­stric­tive “ex­act match” law that put 53,000 vot­ers (most of them re­port­edly African-Amer­i­can) in elec­toral limbo over mis­placed com­mas and trans­posed let­ters in their names, had they not purged 107,000 in­fre­quent vot­ers from the rolls in 2017, would she have lost?

No one can say, though Abrams cer­tainly made her opin­ion clear last week in the non­con­ces­sion speech that ended her bid to be­come the first black wo­man to gov­ern a U.S. state. “Democ­racy failed Ge­or­gia,” she said.

Truth be told, it is fail­ing a lot of places. The non­par­ti­san Bren­nan Cen­ter for Jus­tice at New York Univer­sity School of Law re­ports that 24 states have en­acted laws since 2010 to make vot­ing more dif­fi­cult. These in­clude Photo I.D. laws, laws cut­ting back on early vot­ing, laws re­strict­ing ex-felons from cast­ing bal­lots, laws re­quir­ing street ad­dresses from vot­ers in places where there are no street ad­dresses.

The Re­pub­li­can Party line is that this is needed to fight vot­ing fraud. Which is a lie. Vot­ing fraud ex­ists pri­mar­ily in the party’s imag­i­na­tion.

No, the truth is that, as this coun­try be­comes blacker, browner, gayer, younger, more His­panic and more Mus­lim, it is in­creas­ingly the case that the GOP can­not win if all vot­ers vote. It can­not win, in other words, with­out cheat­ing.

Thus it passes laws to re­duce vot­ing among peo­ple dis­in­clined to vote Re­pub­li­can. In­deed, some party mem­bers have ex­plic­itly said as much. As in a re­cent video of Mis­sis­sippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith “jok­ing” — or so her cam­paign calls it — about what a “great idea” it is to en­act laws that “make it just a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult” for “lib­eral folks” to vote.

Mis­sis­sippi, of course, is where An­drew Good­man, Medgar Evers, Michael Sch­w­erner, Ge­orge Lee, Ver­non Dah­mer, James Chaney and Her­bert Lee were mur­dered be­cause some peo­ple thought it “a great idea” to make it “just a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult” for them to vote. Per­haps the sen­a­tor will for­give those of us who re­mem­ber that and thus, find it hard to ap­pre­ci­ate her sparkling wit.

The Vot­ing Rights Act once pro­vided at least some pro­tec­tion against voter sup­pres­sion. But in 2013, the Supreme Court cut out its heart, a sec­tion that pre­vented places with a his­tory of dis­crim­i­na­tion from chang­ing their vot­ing laws with­out fed­eral ap­proval.

Writ­ing for the ma­jor­ity, Chief Jus­tice John Roberts jus­ti­fied the de­ci­sion by not­ing how much progress has been made to­ward en­sur­ing the right to vote since the Act was passed in 1965. In ef­fect, he said that be­cause the VRA worked, it was no longer needed. As Jus­tice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her dis­sent, this was “like throw­ing away your um­brella in a rain­storm be­cause you are not get­ting wet.”

In the ab­sence of the Act, Repub­li­cans are run­ning riot over African-Amer­i­can and other peo­ple’s vot­ing rights. This bac­cha­nal of sup­pres­sion is ter­ri­bly short-sighted, strik­ing as it does at democ­racy’s vi­tals. Put sim­ply: When the in­tegrity and fair­ness of the vote can’t be trusted, nei­ther can the le­git­i­macy of any govern­ment that vote in­stalls.

The GOP is play­ing with fire. The right to vote must be sacro­sanct, the path to the bal­lot box free from ar­ti­fi­cial im­ped­i­ments de­signed to ad­van­tage one party over an­other. Con­gress must re­store and strengthen the Vot­ing Rights Act. Be­cause Ginsburg was right about um­brel­las.

And right now, we are get­ting soaked. Pitts is a colum­nist for The Mi­ami Her­ald. Send email to [email protected]­ami­her­

Talk about race

The con­cept of talk­ing about pol­i­tics to move for­ward from the elec­tions is some­thing that in­ter­ests me.

Invit­ing some­one over for lunch with an op­pos­ing view­point is just what our so­ci­ety needs right now to help come to­gether.

Most peo­ple who are di­vided po­lit­i­cally are also di­vided racially. The protests in Char­lottesville were mainly po­lit­i­cal at first but race be­came a very im­por­tant thing very quickly.

By talk­ing about racial dif­fer­ences, I think we would also be able to move for­ward, ex­pand our views, and pos­si­bly help to di­min­ish the ef­fect of race on ev­ery­day in­ter­ac­tions.

Ev­ery­one will be able to ma­ture by talk­ing about things in­stead of im­me­di­ately la­bel­ing some­one as racist.

Our skin color should not re­late the way we treat each other. Com­ing to­gether on po­lit­i­cal and racial fronts is the only way to move for­ward to a bet­ter so­ci­ety. Eliana Specht Vir­ginia Beach

Leonard Pitts

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