Deven Anderson sees the widening net of state laws across the country that restrict the right of Americans to vote as nothing more than a re-emergence of the Jim Crow era of the 19th century.
These new laws enacted in states as farflung as Florida, Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Maine represent nothing more than 21st century equivalents of the poll tax or literacy test — the barriers of an earlier time that powerful whites set up to keep African-Americans away from the polls, this smart, young activist with a group called Black Youth Vote contends.
From rolling back access to early voting, to requiring only very specific forms of identification to be allowed to vote, and more, state governments — largely those run by Republican governors and state legislatures — are making it harder for many Americans to vote.
When he hears conservatives say that they want to “take America back,” Anderson asks, “Do you want to take America to 1866?” which was the post-Civil War period when African Americans and other low-income voters were denied the right to vote.
With unemployment rates at 18 percent or higher, African-American men have a very real motivation to be involved in the direction of the country, he says.
“The situation is very dire. How can voice our discontent with these issues if we don’t have the right to vote?” he asks.
Robert "Biko" Baker, a prominent activist and director of the League of Young Voters Education Fund, agrees with Anderson. He calls it “a situation where young black people are systematically taken out of the civic process.”
“It’s not by accident, as Deven pointed out. It’s on purpose.”
Baker, however, also has these new voting laws on his mind for much more immediate and pragmatic reason: they may well help determine the outcome of next year's elections.
In Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker and a GOP-dominated state legislature enacted a strict law in which voters must show certain forms of ID in order to vote, just 78 percent of young African-Americans aged 18 to 24 have the proper ID to vote.