This fall, we are faced with the question of who will become president. And equally important — who can vote?
Over the past decade, Republican lawmakers in more than 20 states have enacted laws making it harder to vote. In the most extreme cases, they require citizens to present government-issued ID to cast their ballots. Recently, these laws have been successfully challenged in the courts.
This summer, federal courts overturned voting laws in North Carolina and North Dakota. In North Carolina, the court ruled against a state law requiring voters to present government-issued ID. The law also restricted, among other things, early voting and had a disproportionate effect on African-American voters. A federal judge ruled that the North Dakota voter ID law had a harmful impact on the ability of Native Americans to cast their vote.
Looming over the controversy about voter ID laws is the history of voter suppression and the movement to open the ballot box to African Americans. As a scholar in African-American history, I believe that today’s debate can be understood only by considering struggles of African Americans for the vote in the past and in particular by looking at the story of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. (Public Radio International)