“The black vote has been ‘hacked’ and ‘interfered’ with for decades by both parties and is clearly under increasing attack.”
The alleged Russian “involvement” and/or “hacking” of the 2016 U.S. elections has taken on a life of its own in the corporate media. Curiously, many African Americans have adopted this narrative for the reason we are stuck with Donald J. Trump, he of the basketball shot of paper towels toward desperate Puerto Ricans. But Black people need not and should not buy into this conspiracy theory for why they, of all people, are saddled with this madman for the next four years. Never mind the fact that Hillary Clinton was unpopular with younger, more politically active African Americans. And, even putting aside the increasing willingness to vote for third parties like the Green Party among this same cohort, the reality is that Russian “hacking” is only credible among blacks who are officials of, or devotees to, the Democratic Party. In truth, there are larger, more race specific voting and election issues for Black people to be concerned with. Most of the reasons existed before Trump and others more surely played a part in the outcome of the election than did foreign manipulation. The Black vote was affected more by the still gutted Voting Rights Act, felony disenfranchisement, mass incarceration and the purging of voting rolls, than by the alleged Russian collusion being sold by media outlets, including Democracy Now.
“Russian ‘hacking’ is only credible among blacks who are officials of, or devotees to, the Democratic Party.”
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Shelby v. Holder, by a 5-4 vote, invalidated a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The majority struck down Section 4 of the Act, which determined the states that must receive pre-clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court before they could make changes to their voting procedures. These changes included matters of whether a voting location could be changed (a major issue in Florid in 2000) as well as contentious issues like redistricting. The Supreme Court, not the Russians, took it upon itself to determine that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was outdated and needed Congressional fixing. The now “gutted” Voting Rights Act was not corrected before the 2016 election. President Obama should have all but declared that he wouldn’t leave the White House until this was fixed. It didn’t happen.
The Congress did not pass a bill to restore the Act or to address the Court’s issues with it. With the Voting Rights Act under direct assault and mortally wounded by the nation’s highest court, this sent a signal to states that had long wanted to be free of its mandates. The result was a landslide of voter I.D. laws enacted in states that previously needed pre-clearance for such measures. States like Texas, Wisconsin and North Carolina followed the lead of non-pre-clearance states such as Indiana and Pennsylvania to impose harsh, arbitrary identification requirements in order to vote. They justified this requirements by saying they were trying to prevent voter fraud. However, every major study conducted on voter fraud revealed that voter fraud happens so infrequently as to be a non-issue and certainly not worth legislative attention. It is estimated that approximately 43 percent of eligible Americans and 47 percent of adults over 18 years old did not participate in this election due to voter I.D. laws nationwide. This is far more egregious, at least for Black people, than whatever the media claims “the Russians” did.
“The Supreme Court, not the Russians, took it upon itself to determine that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was outdated and needed Congressional fixing.”
In Indiana, a stealth right wing state that the media typically ignores, approximately 482,000 registered voters were purged from the voter rolls. This occurred due to the state using a system called Crosscheck. Independent journalist Greg Palast has been writing about this system, but even more mainstream publications like Rolling Stone have covered it. Cross check is simply another tool in the long history of the modern Republican Party’s efforts to disenfranchise black voters. The ruse this time is the non-existent multiple-state voter. That is, voters who are alleged to be registered to vote in more than one state and who could therefore, it is argued, be casting ballots in multiple states. By arguing that they are addressing voter fraud, as with voter I.D., state legislatures use CrossCheck to identify lists of potential duplicate voters. They then use this list as a rationale to purge said voters from their voting rolls. Tens of thousands of voters in multiple states have been taken off their state’s voter rolls. States like Oregon have stopped using CrossCheck because it was deemed to be unreliable. The unceasing, but increasingly sophisticated voter suppression tactics of the GOP are a greater threat to the integrity of the electoral system, particularly for African Americans, than the supposed Russian “interference” that the media, including left leaning outlets, are constantly promoting.
Felon disenfranchisement, where citizens convicted of a felony can no longer vote or must serve some period of time after their sentence before being allowed to vote, is still rampant across America. The foundation of felony disenfranchisement itself is racist and targeted newly freed Africans from bondage. Thirty-four states still have some type of felon disenfranchisement law on the books, thus preventing many African Americans who have been caught in the criminal injustice system from being able to vote. States like Iowa, Kentucky and Florida, permanently disenfranchise Americans even after they have served their debt to society.
“Approximately 43 percent of eligible Americans and 47 percent of adults over 18 years old did not participate in this election due to voter I.D. laws.”
Given the disproportionate number of African Americans who are arrested and convicted of minor offenses or of felonies, and who are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice apparatus of America and are therefore denied the franchise, this surely was a greater “interference” into the America election than whatever it is “the Russians” are accused of doing. In fact, mass incarceration itself, a bi-partisan atrocity, is more likely to have led to the election of Trump than whatever it is the main stream media says Russia did. This is so because, due to felony disenfranchisement, one in every thirteen black people cannot vote nationally. In addition, mass incarceration pulls millions of blacks out of their communities, thus diluting the voting power of those communities, while simultaneously increasing the population, for purposes of the census, of the majority white rural communities where many prisons are located.
The focus on whatever the Russians did or didn’t do also takes our sights off of what is in fact being done in this country to disenfranchise African Americans, which in turn takes the focus off of what we need to do to combat it. There is absolutely nothing African Americans can do about Russian “hacking.” We can, however, fight harder to stop the use of CrossCheck, invalidate Voter ID laws, repeal felon disenfranchisement statues and resist mass incarceration of our people. If the Democratic party wants to focus on Russia, they too must be fought and resisted or at least prodded to focus on what’s real, like fixing the Voting Rights Act. In fact, the black vote has been “hacked” and “interfered” with for decades by both parties and is clearly under increasing attack. We don’t fear the Russians as much as we fear the Republicans and their Democratic cohorts who do nothing to stop our votes from being hacked.
Attorney Bryan K. Bullock practices law in Merrillville, Indiana.