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Voter suppression and Latinos

From the Editors  |  Issue: June July 2021
Detroit celebration of Trump’s presidential defeat
Detroit celebration of Trump’s presidential defeat.
Photo/ Larry Lipton

Although more people than ever before, including Latinos and African Americans, voted in the recent presidential elections that removed Donald Trump from office, the struggle for democracy and fairness is far from over. It faces numerous challenges to this day, ranging from those claiming the election was stolen, to Congressional Republicans refusing to cooperate with a 9/11-level investigation of the attempted coup at the White House on January 6th, to numerous state bills seeking to restrict or eliminate the democratic right to vote.

Building on a legacy of slavery, the forcible subjugation and genocide of the Native American people, and usurpation of half of Mexico’s land to make way for more slave states in the pre-Civil War United States, today’s reactionaries seek to expand on this sordid history.

At one time the Southern plantation owners of four million black human beings held firm control of the U.S. Congress. It took a bloody civil war to change things. And even then, reactionary backsliding occurred because Wall Street bankers found it profitable to tie the former slave to the former slave master’s plantation as his sharecropper, much as the Mexican campesino was tied to the haciendas in Mexico during Porfirio Diaz’ reign.

Denied the right to vote by literacy tests, poll taxes, and the reign of terror of the Ku Klux Klan, African Americans had to wait nearly a century, fight in two world wars, and struggle at home in the civil rights era to gain the right to vote. Their struggles inspired Latino fighters for equality, as similar methods were used to keep Latinos down.

Even today, reactionary politicians like Kevin McCarthy, Devin Nunes, and David Valadao are reelected in the conservative Central Valley of California, largely because of the great numbers of disenfranchised immigrants, largely Latino, who cannot vote, despite paying taxes and contributing to society. Their youth are constantly harassed by law enforcement, and the undocumented are fearful of deportation. The modern-day enforcers are conservative sheriffs and ICE agents.

Like a nightmare that will not go away, the assault on democracy and inclusion continues in multiple ways. There are 361 bills pending in 47 states to limit the right to vote. Five have been signed into law. They seek to severely restrict absentee ballots; to make voter registration more difficult; to demand stricter voter identification; to purge the voter rolls of people who missed an election; to limit polling places and hours and to cut back on early voting. In Georgia, there is even a recently enacted law that makes it illegal to provide food or water to people waiting in long lines to vote.

Fortunately, there is federal legislation pending to override these state restrictions. And yet our elected officials must be constantly reminded to defend us in Washington, D.C. At the state and local levels, reeling from four years of Trump’s turning back the clock on democracy and inclusion, a historic number of youths, women, and people of color have been elected to office and/or have taken to the streets for justice and their rights. Many of them are instrumental in combating the wave of restrictive bills in statehouses. Moreover, many are active in promoting bills that seek to expand the right to vote.

The fight for our democratic rights, including the right to vote, is far from over. We face a relentless enemy, determined to seize control of the government, even if it means impoverishment, destitution, and repression for most of us. Despite the abundance of resources available, the corporate interests racing to control the government do not want to distribute necessities of life to those who lack them if it limits their profits. That is the underlying reason they attack our voting rights.

Whether you are an undocumented mother who cannot vote yet who holds house parties for neighbors who can vote to explain ballot measures, or a first-time 18-year-old voter born here of immigrant parents, your future is in the balance. At stake is who will run this country and in whose interest. Defeating Trump was just the beginning.

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