Sept. 22 was National Voter Registration Day. Nearly 3 million people have signed up to vote on the civic holiday since it began in 2012. Not everyone, however, will get a chance to vote in the upcoming Nov. 3 election and it’s not because they didn’t register. It could be due to the fact that they are poor, young, or a person of color.
Oscar- and Emmy-nominated filmmakers Lisa Cortés and Liz Garbus examine America’s track record on voting and it’s dismal at best in “All In: The Fight for Democracy.” If you look back at the very first election in 1789, George Washington won by a landslide thanks to white male landowners — the only group eligible to cast a vote at the time, which made up 6% of the country’s population.
Any progress we’ve made over the years has been countered with measures to ensure that only certain members of the population can cast a vote without difficulty. Two decades after slavery was abolished African Americans were being elected to the Senate, but their numbers dwindled when Jim Crow-era laws made it difficult for African Americans to vote. The documentary illustrates how polling taxes and gerrymandering tactics were used to suppress the Black vote and, in one instance, a literacy test was forced upon Black voters — the unfair quiz that had nothing to do with literacy was riddled with difficult questions that most people of any race couldn’t answer.
Violence was another measure that was used to intimidate Black people from voting. In 1946, a World War II veteran named Maceo Snipes ignored the Ku Klux Klan warnings in Taylor County, Georgia as he became the only African American to vote that year in the local election. He fought Nazis and Hitler but was gunned down in his hometown after voting.
The film is also focused on the controversial 2018 Georgia Gubernatorial race between Stacey Abrams — the first female African-American major-party gubernatorial nominee — and Brian Kemp who was the secretary of state at the time. He beat Abrams in the highly contested race while in charge of the election because of his political position. More than 1.4 million voters were purged under Kemp’s tenure, some because they hadn’t voted recently, and on election day African American counties faced long lines at the polls thanks to fewer machines available for those districts. Abrams remains committed in the fight to give all Americans an equal opportunity to vote.
Just imagine if every eligible voter was counted. Only then would our elected officials resemble and represent the citizens of this country. Women have only had the right to vote for a century. In 1872, Susan B. Anthony and 15 other women were arrested in New York for voting. In Texas, you can use your concealed handgun license to vote, but not a student ID, a measure that could disenfranchise 600,000 voters, many who are people of color.
The message behind Cortés and Garbus’ documentary is one of urgency. The time to start planning to vote is now. If you’re not registered, sign up. Let your voice be heard. For more information go to the website https://nationalvoterregistrationday.org.