Today in 1865, President Lincoln submitted the 13th Amendment to the states.
DAY 13 ACTION: Learn about voting rights in your state!
There’s a lot happening in the news this week. But the right to vote is an important underlying issue and one worth thinking about for a few days.
President Lincoln worked with Congress to ban slavery in the Constitution, after signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Both houses of Congress passed the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery in the US. On February 1, President Lincoln submitted the amendment to states for ratification. He would not live to see it ratified.
In 1948, President Truman proclaimed February 1 National Freedom Day. But Truman did not de-segregate the military for another 5 months. Brown v. Board of Education was decided 6 years later and integration of our schools remains a challenge. In the late 1950s, African-Americans made up 45% of the population in Mississippi and 5% of the registered voters. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, and acts of bravery in the face of violence, finally increased voter registration in black communities.
In 2012, black voter turnout (66.1%) exceeded white voter turnout (64.1%) for the first time since Reconstruction. But those percentages are of total eligible voters. Two trends have lowered the numbers of eligible voters of color.
- “Civil death” laws – state laws that ban people from voting while in prison or on probation, or if they have a felony record – disenfranchise 6 million Americans. This issue affects all communities. But combined with racial disparities in the criminal justice system, civil death disproportionately reduces the number of eligible black and Latino voters. Alabama disenfranchised 1/3 of the male African-American vote by imposing a lifetime voting ban after a felony conviction. See how long your state imposes “civil death”.
- Voter ID laws – state laws that require some form of particular id when a voter goes to the polls – work to suppress the votes of poorer people and people of color. 32 states had a voter ID law in effect for the 2016 election. (In late August, the Supreme Court had struck down North Carolina’s voter ID law as “an unconstitutional effort to ‘target African Americans with almost surgical precision.'”) ID laws purport to reduce voter fraud. But fraud is rare and is more likely to happen in absentee ballots, which is not targeted in these laws. Absentee voters tend to be older, and whiter. See if your state has a voter ID law.