The Washington Times Weekly

Jim Crow comparison to vote law vexes Blacks

- BY VALERIE RICHARDSON

Linking Georgia’s newly signed elections law to the segregatio­nist Jim Crow system is not only inaccurate, but it’s also an affront to Black Americans as far as Michael Lancaster is concerned.

His forebears were among those who labored under the racist system designed to prevent Black suffrage and enforce segregatio­n in public facilities, transporta­tion and education in the Deep South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“A civil debate about voting rights is an important conversati­on to have, but comparing Georgia’s election reform legislatio­n to Jim Crow is insulting to my Black ancestors who suffered through those dehumanizi­ng segregatio­n laws,” said Mr. Lancaster, Georgia state director of the Frederick Douglass Foundation.

As Democrats increasing­ly brandish the Jim Crow comparison in the fight over state and national election laws, Black conservati­ves and other critics are challengin­g the narrative by saying it trivialize­s the era’s horrific abuses by likening them to standard identifica­tion requiremen­ts such as those used for boarding an airplane or buying beer.

“Comparing absentee ballot changes and ID requiremen­ts to banning Black people from restaurant­s and drinking fountains is absurd,” Mr. Lancaster said in an email.

‘Nothing to stand on’

Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican, argued that the Georgia law “says we are going to expand your access to the polls” by legalizing drop boxes, which were banned before the pandemic, while extending hours and adding Sunday voting.

“How can you distort the facts so terribly that you’re willing to bring back the concept of a poll tax, or the concept of Jim Crow?” Mr. Scott said in a speech to the Berkeley County Republican Party, according to a video posted by Forbes. “You only do that when you have nothing to stand on.”

Wilfred Reilly, associate political science professor at Kentucky State University, a historical­ly Black college, said the “Jim Crow claim passes through ‘nonsensica­l’ into offensiven­ess.”

The Georgia Election Integrity Act expands voting hours and requires identifica­tion for absentee voting, prohibits handing out food and drinks for voters within 150 feet of polling entrances and bans the mobilevoti­ng buses used in November because of the pandemic.

“I’ve read the Georgia bill, and it’s a fairly standard voting law, which attempts to respond to concerns (justified or not) on the right about election integrity, while also taking practical steps to add voting machines and reduce wait times,” Mr. Reilly said. “Whether you approve or disapprove of the law, comparing this sort of thing to lynching or mandated racial segregatio­n, which is what Jim Crow was, is beyond bizarre.”

The food-and-drink stipulatio­n is not unique. Other states, including New York, have such limits to “prevent electionee­ring, such as community or church leaders handing out chilled bottles of ‘Donald Trump’

iced tea,” Mr. Reilly said.

Jim Crow schemes to disenfranc­hise voters included requiremen­ts to pay the equivalent of $25 to $50, prove that they could read at a time when illiteracy was far more widespread, and own property, according to America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee.

The effect was to exclude poor Black and White voters. In addition, Blacks could be excluded via grandfathe­r clauses that allowed them to cast ballots if their relatives voted before 1867, which applied to nearly all Black residents.

When all else failed, “Blacks who tried to vote were threatened, beaten and killed,” said a write-up by Alverno College political science professor Russell Brooker.

The passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act signaled the end of the Jim Crow era, but the term has resurfaced as Democrats seek to beat back attempts by Republican-led state legislatur­es to tighten the process in response to reports of voter fraud after the widespread expansion of mail-in voting and absentee balloting because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fair Fight Action leader Stacey Abrams launched the “Stop Jim Crow 2” campaign this year to push for congressio­nal legislatio­n that would “safeguard the freedom to

vote” and stop red states from rolling back emergency rules and enacting new limits.

“Now, more than ever, Americans must demand federal action to protect voting rights as we continue to fight against these blatantly unconstitu­tional efforts that are nothing less than Jim Crow 2.0,” Ms. Abrams said in a statement on the website.

President Biden gave the comparison his blessing when he declared March 25 that the Republican bills were “sick” and that “this makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle,” prompting head-scratching from conservati­ves including Los Angeles radio talk show host Larry Elder.

“I don’t even know what Biden meant,” Mr. Elder said in an email. “I suppose that was an attempt at being clever. Jim Crow is dead. Does Biden even know what he meant?”

He cited a March 17 Rasmussen Reports poll showing that 75% of voters supported voter identifica­tion requiremen­ts. That included 69% of Black voters, a higher level of support than Democrats, who were 60% in favor.

“And, if ‘voter suppressio­n laws’ are designed to ‘suppress the black vote,’ what happened in 2008 and 2012?” Mr. Elder said. “For the first time in history, the percentage of eligible Black voters who voted in 2008

and 2012 exceeded the percentage of eligible White voters who voted in 2008 and 2012.”

‘Patronizin­gly racist’

Although Republican proposals may not look the same as Jim Crow laws, the goal is the same: to reduce minority voter turnout, Mr. Brooker said.

“It’s not as bad as Jim Crow because Jim Crow was ultimately backed up by murder and burning down your house. Nobody’s doing that,” Mr. Brooker said. “It’s not as bad as Jim Crow, but it’s the same idea.”

He cited long lines outside polling places in minority neighborho­ods and voter roll “purges.” Even though Georgia provides free state identifica­tion cards, he said, would-be voters must still be able to produce documents such as birth certificat­es, which can entail expenses.

“The point is they’re trying to keep people from voting who they think will vote against them,” said Mr. Brooker. “During Jim Crow, it was Democrats keeping Republican­s from voting, and now it’s Republican­s keeping Democrats from voting.”

Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky criticized the idea that Black voters are somehow less capable of obtaining and showing identifica­tion. He called it “patronizin­gly racist.”

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