Fifty years ago was America's
Freedom Summer, in which people advocated for African Americans' voting rights in Mississippi. At that time, African Americans could legally vote, but had to pass tests of knowledge (difficult enough to stump someone with a Ph.D.), pay fees and face other barriers in order to vote. The result was an almost exclusively white electorate and a government that did not represent all its citizens.
I was disheartened to see a veiled attempt to use the old arguments for voter suppression in a letter to the editor in the June 29 issue. The letter juxtaposed bus loads of people showing up at polls, suspicion of voter fraud, and an admonition that voters should be knowledgeable. Why would seeing people ride on a bus to a polling place lead one to decry lack of knowledge or honesty in voting?
The excellent PBS documentary, "Freedom Summer," told us that African Americans and others who sought voting rights in Mississippi were fired from their jobs, had their small businesses sabotaged, were beaten, and were in some cases killed because they wanted a voice in the political system. One of the ways they felt safer was to gather within their churches and attempt to vote in groups.
So when I see busloads of people being brought to a voting area, it makes me wonder, too. I wonder if it means that the riders still feel that their voting rights are threatened.
Given that discredited reports (see Politifact, etc.) of widespread voter fraud have led many states to create new barriers to vote, disproportionately impacting African Americans, the current day's bus- loads are right to be concerned.