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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

NJ Employment Attorney, Historical Racism Part X, Black Voter Suppression in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Details of 19th, 20th and 21st century Jim Crow culture and laws including payment of poll taxes and the requirement of passing complex literacy tests selectively given to suppress black votes, which tests were administered by local officials with no federal oversight, may be reviewed in the Nov. 24th and Dec. 15th articles.

Gerrymandering was another method states employed for Black voter suppression.

Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering is defined by the Oxford dictionary as the manipulation of  the boundaries of an electoral constituency to achieve a result to favor one class or party. Two schemes  used in gerrymandering are "cracking", i.e.,  diluting the voting power of one class of persons or parties across many districts,  and "packing" i.e., super-concentrating one class of persons or one party’s voting power in one district to reduce their voting power in other districts.

Gerrymandering was another form of voter suppression in the 1900's that continued into the 21st century.

By gerrymandering states may engage in this  form of black voter suppression by dividing or arranging a territorial unit into election districts in a way that gives one race an unfair advantage. Gerrymandering can dilute blacks of the full power of their vote, effectively being a form of voter suppression. Through algorithms, it can be a divide-and-conquer strategy, using mathematical solutions to review the demographics of a state, and review where Black people reside in a particular area distributed throughout the state, to change the boundaries of the districts.

Gerrymandering can lead to having districts with their lines drawn for per capita head count for where blacks can be concentrated to achieve an end of a desired head count per capita per district for elected representation and so limit to one or two districts for their voting impact.

“Every 10 years, each U.S. state redraws its electoral districts—lines on a map that have serious real-world consequences. If districts are drawn fairly, then the public can elect representatives who reflect the views of the population as a whole. But if the district lines are manipulated through partisan gerrymandering, then the legislature will be untethered from the popular will. ”

Partisan gerrymandering can limit voting rights of a certain class by race through planned voter suppression by targeting the communities that will result in reducing the black voting power.

In the 1950's and 1960's the civil rights movement was growing in strength, leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act however did not prevent black voter suppression and did not prevent race motivated gerrymandering, and voting discrimination through states’ legislation and by the local registration officials at the polling places. Blacks attempting to vote were met with intimidation and physical violence. Only a small percentage of Blacks were registered voters, resulting in little or no local, state, or national political power.

The murder of voting rights activists in Mississippi had received national news coverage. When peaceful voting rights protesters in Selma, Alabama were violently attacked by Alabama state police on March 7, 1965, known as “Bloody Sunday”, the national news media filmed the violence.  Many persons realized that the existing civil rights laws were not being enforced by the states and local authorities. Congress through public opinion was pressed to decide whether the federal government should oversee the  power to register voters and guarantee a black person’s right to vote.

Congress passed The Voting Rights Act of 1965. It’s goal was to increase the number of people registered to vote in areas where there was a record of previous discrimination against persons attempting to vote.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting. In Section 2, which resembled language of the 15th amendment, it applied a nationwide prohibition of the denial or abridgment of the right to vote based on race or color. The 24th Amendment abolished  poll taxes in national elections, and the Voting Rights Act directed the Attorney General to challenge the use of poll taxes in state and local elections. In 1966, the Supreme Court held Virginia's poll tax to be unconstitutional under the 14th amendment in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966).

State and local officials historically and conventionally set the qualifications for voting; therefore federal oversight of voting rights protection was a significant change in the constitutional balance of power between the federal government and the states.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 provided for  for the appointment of Federal examiners in the jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination. What was most significant, these jurisdictions could not change voting practices or procedures including redistricting without "preclearance" from either the U.S. Attorney General or the District Court for Washington, DC. This act shifted the power to register voters from state and local officials to the Federal government.

Preclearance was the process of seeking U.S. Department of Justice approval for all changes related to voting including redistricting. Section 5 of the Act requires that the United States Department of Justice or a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for District of Columbia preclear any attempt to change any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting in any “covered jurisdiction” which was a jurisdiction with a history of voter suppression.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the most significant statutory change in the relationship between the Federal and state governments in the area of voting since the post-Civil War era of Reconstruction. It was immediately challenged in the courts. The Supreme Court issued several key decisions  between 1965 and 1969 upholding the constitutionality of the law,  South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301 (1966) and Allen v. State Board of Elections, 393 U.S. 544 (1969).

Black voter registration and the percentage of completed voting by Blacks dramatically increased after the passage of this Act.

When Jim Crow laws were banned nationwide because of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, numerous districts instituted new barriers to suppress the black voting power, such as closing polling places and eliminating early voting in minority neighborhoods. Federal oversight of the electoral process lost some of its teeth with the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision to be discussed in the next article.

What You Can Do

I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in successfully representing persons who were subjected to racial harassment and retaliation in the workplace and/or were fired. If you have experienced racism at work, or if you reported it and no action was taken, if you are thinking of resigning, or think you will be fired, or have been fired, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in discrimination.

If you are being subjected to workplace discrimination, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout New Jersey, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in southern, central, western and northern NJ to meet with clients.



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