By The Editorial Board
If you haven’t switched to mail-in ballots, and since you are reading this newspaper, we can guess you may have not, please remember to vote on Tuesday.
The primary is May 16, and we’ve tried to be comprehensive in our round-up of the candidates. As fans of democracy, one which seems particularly under threat lately, we’d like to remind you of the fraught history of the vote and how easily it could become restricted once more.
As of February, according to the Brennan Center, lawmakers in 32 states pre-filed or introduced 150 restrictive voting bills. These laws would make it harder for people to vote, especially people in poorer areas and those in traditionally Black neighborhoods.
The history of voting restrictions in this country is as old as the country itself.
The 15th Amendment didn’t grant Black men the right to vote until 1870, five years after slavery was abolished and 94 years after the country was founded. Even at that time, women of all races were not able to exercise their right to vote.
In 1917, according to the Zinn Project, 20 suffragettes were beaten and tortured while in a West Virginia prison simply for fighting for the right to vote. All in all 72 of them were held in the prison over a summer according to the Smithsonian Magazine. The incident, nearly forgotten now, repulsed the general public and galvanized support for expanding women’s rights. In 1920, In 1920 Black and White women were extended the vote.
Native Americans were not permitted to vote until 1924 and Asian-American immigrants were denied the vote until 1943 according to an exhaustive piece by Melissa Block at NPR.
The bloody trail to the ballot box does not end in post World War II. During the Jim Crow era in the South, laws were enacted to make voting difficult for the Black population.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 tried to break those barriers, but it only passed because of the efforts of thousands who Marched in protest, and those who tried to keep the deaths of their loved ones from being in vain.
A tipping point in the fight came after the murders of three civil rights activists in Mississippi. Interestingly, when searching for the bodies of the three civil rights workers, Mickey Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, two other bodies were found. Two young Black men, Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore, were killed in a racially motivated lynching while they were on their way out to get some ice cream. They were just two people who lived in a society where violent voter suppression was permitted. Voter suppression might be happening on paper right now, an abstract idea, but the impact could not be more visceral and immediate.
At this moment in Pennsylvania history, you still need only arm yourself with knowledge to lay claim to your rights.
There are people in power who want to suppress the rights of constituents to remain in power. Sometimes they do that with brutal violence. Other times they do it with lines on maps or ridiculous waits. Sometimes they target dissenters with trumped up accusations and the threat of legal retaliation or starving out the free press.
Don’t do their job for them.
We at Gazette 2.0 hope you make your voice heard this primary season.