Claims that voter ID and other polling place protections are intentional attempts to suppress minority voters continue to garner headlines. That this has happened in the past cannot be denied, but there have been numerous attempts to deny voters’ voices, and not all are Jim Crow analogies.
For example, there was an upstart community organizer from Chicago who ran for a state senate seat in Illinois in 1996. He won his party’s nomination, in part, by invalidating thousands of names on his opponents’ petitions – including those supporting the incumbent – by looking for inconsistencies in names, addresses and pertinent registration information.
Embattled ballot protection efforts such as list purges are used to deal with many of these same inconsistencies this candidate used to knock out his competition and eventually run unopposed in the primary and win easily that November.
During the 2008 presidential primaries, party officials in Florida and Michigan improperly held their primaries earlier than national party leaders allowed. The Republican Party held to its rule that such violations meant only half a state’s delegation would be seated at the convention, but Democrats held their delegations in political limbo. Full voting rights were restored just before the convention — after the presumptive nominee was secure in his victory. Until then, the nominee — once again, the community organizer from Illinois — remained remarkably silent as his party threatened to essentially invalidate primary votes in two states.
Ironically, the organizer responsible for both those political maneuvers was the same person complaining about voter suppression at Sharpton’s convention — President Barack Obama.
To think that only one political party might suppress minority votes with malicious intent is erroneous. Politics is a tough game. To assume only one party or group would resort to such tactics is naïve and preposterous. Such naiveté leads to ironies such as our President, who actively limited voter options in 1996 and was silent when votes were at risk of being invalidated in 2008, now seeking to invigorate a flagging base by stoking fears of voter suppression.