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Monday, January 25, 2021

Voter suppression is real, y’all

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I take my right to vote seriously. But I don’t think I take it as seriously as Hervis Rogers. Rogers was the last person to cast a ballot on Super Tuesday, which was really Wednesday, at Texas Southern University, a historically Black college in Houston. Rogers waited six hours and 20 minutes to vote, and by the time he did so it was 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. So, technically he didn’t vote on Super Tuesday. In fact, by the time he voted, the polls had closed hours before and the winner long announced.

Again, I don’t take voting for granted. However, I know I wouldn’t have waited seven hours to vote. I’m normally in and out in 10 minutes — max. Most of the time spent isn’t waiting to vote but actually filling out my ballot.

November 2019 was the first time since voting for then-Sen. Barack Obama that I’ve had to wait in line for more than a few minutes. I balked when I saw the people standing in front of me waiting to cast their ballots. I’m not a patient person, and I’m not used to waiting to vote. I prepared my mind for the long wait when I voted for Obama, but I also vowed to avoid long lines as much as possible from then on. So I’m pretty sure I would’ve left at some point. I think I would’ve tried to hang in there for a couple of hours, heck maybe three. But six and some change? Naw, I would’ve been out. I have things to do.

I commend Rogers for his dedication to voting. 

Now, the system that allowed this to happen definitely doesn’t deserve commendation. It is 2020 and voter suppression continues to be a thing. There are people out there whose goal is to disenfranchise Black voters. Oh, they won’t come right out and say it, but it’s obvious in their actions.

From 2012 to 2018, 750 polling sites in Texas were closed. No state closed more polling sites than Texas. Guess where most of the polling locations were located? Black and brown neighborhoods, of course. An analysis by The Guardian found “the 50 counties that gained the most Black and Latinx residents between 2012 and 2018 closed 542 polling sites, compared to just 34 closures in the 50 counties that have gained the fewest Black and Latinx residents.” 

According to an article on Mother Jones, “Texas was allowed to close these polling places because of a 2013 Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act that enabled states with a long history of voting discrimination like Texas to take such actions without federal approval.”

Not only were the lines ridiculously long, but voting machines were old and some even broken, furthermore discouraging voting.

Like Indiana, Texas adopted vote centers, which are supposed to make voting more convenient because you can vote anywhere. In Texas, the opening of vote centers meant closing some polling places. So, it looks like progress but it’s really not. The devil is always in the details, and too many times no one asks about the details — not even those making the decision. 

While those in predominately Black neighborhoods in Texas waited for hours, it was a different story for those in predominately white neighborhoods. People of varying ethnic backgrounds took to Twitter to tell stories of moving in and out of their polling place at a quick pace.

Their anecdotal evidence is backed up by facts.

“For example, relative to entirely white neighborhoods (identified using census data), residents of entirely Black neighborhoods waited 29 percent longer to vote and were 74 percent more likely to spend more than 30 minutes at their polling place. A disparity exists for entirely Hispanic neighborhoods, too, but it is not as pronounced,” according to a working paper by co-authors Keith Chen and Ryne Rohla on the National Bureau of Economic Research website.

Our votes matter or else there wouldn’t be such concerted efforts to suppress our vote. This is just another example of why we must vote for the right candidates — from local government up to the president. The people making the decisions to suppress our vote were elected, and in the case of Supreme Court justices, they were appointed and confirmed by people we elected. Voting isn’t just for today. It has lasting repercussions. Hervis Rogers understood this, which is why he waited for almost an entire workday to vote. Let’s all be that dedicated.

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