Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t wait for his fellow Republicans in Senate to stop blocking federal voting rights legislation that would have allowed him to ramp up racist suppression efforts within his home state.
DeSantis presented a new political map for Florida in a bizarre move, just days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. experts saidThis would reduce the power of Latino voters, effectively eliminating two majority-Black voting areas out of four in the state. DeSantis then asked Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature for nearly $6 millionTo finance a new police force to enforce election laws. sweeping new voting restrictionsHe signed into law the following year.
DeSantis’s proposed poll patrols would ultimately answer to the governor, raising fears of voter intimidation in a state where Republicans gutted a constitutional amendmentmeant to restore voting rights for hundreds and thousands of people formerly imprisoned. Ash-Lee Henderson was the first Black woman to be co-executive director at the Highlander Research and Education Center. This center is the legendary incubator of the southern civil rights movement. King and Rosa Parks trained, said DeSantis’s call for an Office of Election Crimes and Security targeting voters “wasn’t even a dog whistle, it was overtly racist.”
“I’m disgusted, because literally residents across the state — and Florida is a huge state — said that formerly incarcerated people deserve the right to vote, said they wanted drive-through voting and mail-in ballots, and his response is, ‘all this is voter fraud,’” Henderson said. “But there is no scientific evidence to show there is this intentional voter fraud happening.”
DeSantis is hungry for right-wing media attention, and the proposals were a broad swipe at Democrats and civil rights groups, who spent the past year accusing Republican-controlled states of reviving Jim Crow with a wave of voter suppression laws. The laws passed in the wake of former President Trump’s mendacious attempts at overthrowing the 2020 election with false claims of voter fraud.
DeSantis is signaling to the GOP that it will take over every inch of ground left by Democrats in the fight for ballot access. This has once more sparked mass civil rights protests. While it’s unclear whether DeSantis will ultimately implement new election police in Florida, he knew the federal legislation that could block such a proposal was likely to fail on Wednesday. It did.
After a day of intense debate about race and democracy in the U.S. Senate rejected the Democratic push to pass their landmark vote on voting rights, Freedom to Vote: John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. This bill was championed as a significant step towards addressing racism suppression by Black leaders. The Senate’s 50 Republicans united against the bill, which they deride as a federal takeover of elections — a revival of segregationist argumentsAccording to voting rights groups, they are against the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Henderson and other observers say DeSantis’s timing is obvious as Republicans continue to push back on any progress made by Black people since the 2020 uprisings for racial justice. The governor is pushing for a bill to combat anti-racist education. designed to shield white people from feeling “discomfort” from discussion about the nation’s racist past at work and in public schools this week.
“DeSantis is using his bully pulpit to wave a flag of white supremacy and fascism and anti-democracy in the face of what has been amazing multi-racial, Back-led movement for voting rights and racial justice,” Henderson said.
Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona both said they supported the voting rights bill but sided with Republicans. They refused to change filibuster rules so that the bill could be passed with a simple majority. Both senators refused to budge on the filibuster despite intense pressure from civil rights activists and warnings from colleagues and President Joe Biden that a “no” vote would land them on the wrong side of history.
“When exceptions to the filibuster are made to raise the debt limit and to push through Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, we refuse to believe that you can’t make the exception so that Black and Brown folks, folks with disabilities, folks with criminal records, and so many more of us can have our right to vote protected,” said Rep. Cori Bush, a Black Democrat from Missouri, in a statement after the vote.
The Senate was ready to vote, election officials, and advocates for persons with disabilities continued raising alarmsAbout voter suppression in Texas, where voting right groups and the Justice Department are challengingNew restrictions on state-wide voting alleged attemptsat brazenRacial gerrymandering aggressively diluteVoting power of Brown and Black
Thousands upon thousands of Texans are getting letters from the state informing their that they have been flagged as potential noncitizens. If this happens, they could be removed from the voter rolls. accordingTo the Associated Press. Dana DeBeauvoir was the Travis Country clerk, which includes Austin. She said that hundreds of mail-in ballot applications were received. rejectedDue to confusion over strict new ID regulations passed by Republican lawmakers last Year.
“My friends, this is what voter suppression looks like,” DeBeauvoir said in a press conference on Tuesday.
While DeBeauvoir tussled with Republican state officials over who’s to blame for the confusion over the ID rules, voting rights groups warned a number of other changes to Texas law are designed to intimidate voters and purge them from the rolls. The Texas law, SB1, increased criminal penalties and paperwork for voters who assist them, creating obstacles for disabled voters and their caregivers.
“Different needs require different forms of assistance,” said Molly Broadway, a voting support specialist with Disability Rights Texas, told KXAN Austin. “They can misinterpret a proper form of assistance as illegal assistance.”
About 200 new measuresPassed in at least 19 statesLast year, there were many measures that made it more difficult to vote. More are likely to follow now that the Senate has failed to pass the voting rights legislation. The voting rights bill, along with other measures, would make Election Day a federal holiday and mandate early voting for two weeks. It also restores federal oversight to states that have erected barriers to Black and Brown voters in the past.
Henderson stated that the gears for voter suppression are now turning beyond Texas and Florida. He also spoke out in support of Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee. Henderson, who is a leader of the Movement for Black Lives coalition, said it’s clear why voters are increasingly threatened with criminal penalties, polling police, empowered partisan poll watchersin the face of protests against police violence. Black and Brown are often targeted and criminalized indisproportionate numbers by police.
“It’s not hyperbolic to understand this as a racist intervention; the highest concentration of Black people in the country is in the South,” Henderson said. “The timing of it is very clearly and overtly a response to Black, Brown, Indigenous and Asian-descended and white folks coming out to say we have a different vision, a vision for Build Back Better and defunding the police.”
Republicans flatly reject that their “election integrity” efforts have a racial dimension and say Jim Crow ended years ago, but Henderson said the fight for voting rights did not end in the 1960s. Voters in majority-Black areas still have to wait in long lines across the country. Florida and Texas have long histories of trying to rig elections by dividing Black, Brown, or Indigenous voters to reduce their power.
“It’s a tactical intervention in order to consolidate their wealth and power because they are losing it,” Henderson said.
Democrats also take advantage of their structural advantages through gerrymandering. Republican can paint the voting rights legislation and gerrymandering as a partisan power grab. However, Republicans have held a majority in state legislatures for the last decade, giving them the ability to control their party. disproportionate controlover the political maps that influence elections. As voting rights cases rolled through the judiciary, the GOP had stacked federal courts with conservatives prior to losing the Senate majority.
In 2020, unprecedented voter turnout gave Democrats their own an advantage by handing the party control of Congress and the White House — and, activists say, a mandate to deliver on voting rights. But Sinema and Manchin made sure that Democrats couldn’t use this advantage and that the voting rights fight would continue as for decades.
“We are not starting a conversation yesterday,” Henderson said. “We are talking about a centuries-old conversation in this country — if Black people are able to patriciate in this democracy.”