Forty-seven years ago today, civil rights activists were beaten by Alabama state troopers as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on their march from Selma to Montgomery.
The Pennsylvania Senate is expected to mark this seminal date in voting rights history by passing HB 934, a voter suppression bill that will require voters to show government-issued photo ID in order to vote.
Under the guise of preventing voter fraud, this bill would actually disenfranchise many elderly and minority voters. It would suppress the right to vote for many Pennsylvanians by essentially making it harder to vote for individuals who do not have a photo ID.
Many individuals do not have a photo ID because of the cost. Some elderly have stated that they do not have the proper documentation needed to obtain a photo ID.
During a conference call with reporters, state Sen. Daylin Leach blasted Republican claims of voter impersonation:
If I am wrong about any of those pieces of information, I am going to get busted for doing this and face federal prosecution with potentially years in prison. What do I gain? I gain one vote in an election.
Although black folks have died for the right to vote, the post-civil rights generation is not dying to assume their responsibility to fight voter suppression. The last few days, I’ve heard just about every excuse for not pledging $10, including they don’t want to have to register at the site.
In response to my Facebook post in which I shared my frustration, Anna Renee, “an unapologetic lover of my black people,” wrote “Black People Refuse to Pay for Freedom”:
Do you believe you’re free, black people? How can you tell? Well you may be free, but freedom is not free, and never has been. There is a high cost to freedom. Blood has been paid to secure freedom. Your freedom cost somebody their blood, their lives. Martin L. King paid with blood for our freedom. Malcolm X paid with blood for our freedom. Numerous freedom fighters both white and black have paid with their sanity, their livelihoods, their sense of security, their dreams for your freedom black people. Your grandmothers and grandfathers have paid the price, and we as black people now have freedom.
What was the cost of our freedom back then? Marching in the streets. Attack dogs let loose on old black ladies. Children being bombed in churches. Mothers walking to work to avoid riding the back of the bus. Cleaning toilets. Burping Miss Ann’s babies, while hers went without. Young men getting beaten in the head with billy clubs. Students getting thrown in jail. Fathers being hanged from trees. Strategizing in the black churches. Artists being black balled. Blood spilled. Black History Month ended about 5 days ago. We call to our remembrance our black freedom fighters and all they sacrificed for our freedom. Has Black History Month become an empty exercise, where we pay false homage to what we no longer know? Have we forsaken our ancestors and disdained the sacrifice they made for us?
What is the cost of our freedom right now? It’s $10. The cost of dinner at McDonald's. Are you willing to pay for your freedom?
Well, are you? Free your mind and the rest will follow.
This week marks the 47th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” a seminal event in voting rights history.
The televised images of protesters being brutally assaulted on the Edmund Pettus Bridge sparked a national outcry and led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Fast forward to today. Rep. John Lewis, who is pictured in the above photo, said:
We're not being beaten on the bridge, but we're being blocked at the ballot box.
Indeed, the weapon of choice is photo ID.
My friend Bill Fletcher Jr., Director of Field Services & Education for the American Federation of Government Employees, writes:
But a cancer has begun to spread in the electoral realm, one that is appropriately receiving greater and greater attention.
It is the cancer of voter disenfranchisement and it is happening under the banner of stopping alleged voter fraud. While this may sound perfectly reasonable, there is only one problem: voter fraud has not been documented as a significant problem any time in the recent past. Nevertheless, a primarily Republican legislative offensive has taken place in fourteen states that could make it more difficult for at least five million voters to cast their ballots in November 2012.
For these reasons there appear to be the makings of massive electoral theft, something that goes beyond the crudeness of both Florida in 2000 and the voting machine issues in Ohio in 2004. This is about the “legal” elimination of millions of voters, particularly those who the Republicans expect to vote Democratic. When these individuals are restricted from voting, or too discouraged to vote, the charlatans who passed the regressive legislation that made this all possible will simply throw their hands into the air and feign a lack of responsibility.
The Cost of Freedom Voter ID App will help minimize the number of voters who become discouraged by an application process that is disenfranchisement by design.
Please make a pledge today. The civil rights generation fought to remove barriers to the ballot box. It’s now our responsibility to fight voter suppression.
I would like to share the video of my presentation of the Cost of Freedom Project at the Hack/Hackers Meetup at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
A pledge in support of the Cost of Freedom App is not about accommodating voter suppression. It’s about accommodating reality. The reality is in five states, including Wisconsin, a swing state, voters must show goverment-issued photo ID in order to vote. As of this writing, Virginia and Pennsylvania, battleground states, are poised to pass voter ID laws.
We must challenge voter ID laws but with Election Day less than eight months away, we have to help voters without an official photo ID cut through the confusion.
So please make a pledge today and share the link with your friends and family. If you don’t help voters get ready, who will?