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Voting Stories Of Black Americans

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Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D.
Black Americans, congratulations for not only going out to vote but for what they had to go through to do it. Each of us has a story to tell. Mine started years ago when I moved

5 miles from one county to another country.

Following that move there was nothing I could do-- by way of phone calls, emails, letters, and visiting various facilities-- to be able to get re-registered to vote. But with this election involving Obama, I simply had to vote.

On the advice of a friend I went to the voter’s registration office, only to discover that the form (obtained from the internet) I had sent in six weeks prior was not put into the system. One of the problems is that they did not believe that my present location was part of their county, when I knew it certainly was—because I pay taxes in that county, even for things I do not get (e.g. water and sewage). They ran some kind of check and the print-out showed me to be correct.

But they still could not allow me to vote and it was necessary to go to court. I took the form to the court house (just before it closed at 4:00 pm) and went through the same problem of the clerk and her supervisor--both loudly declaring that I was in the wrong county. Eventually, I was able to get the boss of the supervisor and gave him the print-out given at the voter’s registration office to prove I lived in the appropriate county. He accepted that and because I had
spent so much time (the employees had gone home for the day) he said he would save me
from having to come back the following by prevailing on the judge to sign the petition
right then. That took an hour but I was able to get back to the registration office in time
to vote—which ensured Obama’s victory.

The reason for going to all this trouble is my knowledge of the history Black people have gone through (and still do) in order to vote. Whites’ have designed all sorts of very elaborate devices as a way of preventing Blacks from exercising active citizenship. The reasons include being able to maintain control over all things important to the lives of Black people and thereby control Blacks themselves. These include things like jobs and riches, education, housing, cultural
achievements, health, and law and order.

Between 1890 and 1910 eleven Southern states adopted special requirements for voting
designed to deny Blacks the franchise. One was the poll tax, requiring the citizen to
pay a special tax—sometimes being retroactive--for the privilege of voting. Or, Blacks
were required to show poll tax receipts for a number of years. A frequent device was to
give Blacks only a day for registration—a day when White officials were not available.

Educational tests were sometimes stipulated. By asking Black people for registration
questions concerning government which they could not possibly answer, officials
could keep them off the list.

As often as any method, White Southerners resorted to intimidation and violence for the purpose of preventing Negroes from voting. There were numerous instances of Blacks attempting to register or to vote that were driven away, beaten up, or killed.

Or, intimidation was with White officials saying: “yes, you can register but keep in mind that you can get killed for doing so.”

One handbill that was scattered around town in 1932 said: “Nigger! The white people do
not want you to vote Saturday. Do not make the Ku Klux Klan take a hand. Do you remember what happened two years ago in May? A Nigger was burned to death for trying to vote…?”

Election day riots in which both Whites and Blacks were killed occurred in various sections of the South until relatively recently. Similar, but tempered, voting problems for Blacks continue to this day--electronic malfunctions, no paper ballots, long lines with no restrooms, not enough
optical scanning machines, not counting absentee ballot (which are the last counted),
fears of being arrested, and being told aboutvoting only on the day after.

website: www.jablifeskills.com


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