“Shut Out” is a three-part podcast alternation produced by HuffPost. America doesn’t accomplish it attainable to vote. A aborigine can be blank for a typo, a cacographic signature, or for a felony. Afresh there are the politicians who acclaim “voter fraud” aback it’s a accurate myth. Host Catherine Saint Louis and anchorman Sam Levine appraise why we should be afraid about the abrasion of our capitalism with 2020 on the horizon.
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It acclimated to be that articulacy tests and poll taxes kept atramentous voters from the acclamation box. It was advised disenfranchisement put in abode to block African-Americans afterwards they accurately acquired the appropriate to vote.
But in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson active into law one of the best able pieces of legislation in the history of the United States. The law, alleged the Voting Rights Act, able the federal government with a arms it could aim at racist barriers continuing in the way of boyhood voters.
The Voting Rights Act not alone wiped out abounding of those restrictions, but it was a abstruse accepting that change could alone appear if all Americans could accept who absolute them.
In Adventure 1 of “Shut Out” we booty a 1960s articulacy test, advised to accumulate atramentous bodies from voting, and apprentice added about how America fabricated it hard, and continues to accomplish it hard, for atramentous voters to get to the polls.
We appraise the voting restrictions that fabricated the Voting Rights Act necessary. And we analyze the adeptness of a assertive allotment of the law that helped stop bigotry afore it happened. That’s right: Admiral who capital to accomplish voting changes aboriginal had to appearance they were not activity to account problems for boyhood voters.
Lastly, and conceivably best urgently, we attending at how the Supreme Cloister afresh gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, giving admiral the blooming ablaze to apparatus abominable voting laws.
Subscribe to “Shut Out” wherever you accept to podcasts. Apprehend on for a archetype of the aboriginal episode.
Episode 1: You Flunked
Catherine Saint Louis: I’ve got to booty a analysis today. It’s not aloof any test. The stakes are high. If I canyon it, I get to vote. If I don’t pass, I don’t get to casting a ballot. Everything hinges whether or not I can acknowledgment questions to the achievement of one person.
And I’ll accept anticipate quickly. The accomplished analysis ― all 30 questions ― has to be done in 10 minutes.
Carol Anderson: Appear into my registrar’s office. What do you want? I said, What do you want?
Saint Louis: That’s absolutely Carol Anderson. She’s an Emory assistant whose latest book is One Person, No Vote: How Aborigine Abolishment is Destroying our Democracy. She agreed to accord me a 1960s articulacy analysis from Louisiana. Appropriate now, in 2018.
She did not go attainable on me.
Anderson: What makes you anticipate you accept the appropriate to annals to vote?
Saint Louis: Um, I was told I could.
Anderson: You’re not aural too community with your, um, ha, hmmm, ha. Why are you here? Oh, you would adulation to annals to vote. Well, let me accord you the analysis to see if you got what it takes to be a aborigine in my state.
Saint Louis: So she gave me the instructions.
Anderson: Do what you are told to do in anniversary statement. Nothing more. Nothing less. Be careful, as one amiss acknowledgment denotes abortion of the test.
Question 1. Draw a band about the cardinal or letter of this sentence.
Saint Louis: The number? So maybe the cardinal 1? Alright I’m activity to draw a band about that one. But what about that letter of the sentence? What on apple does that mean?
Anderson: In the amplitude below, abode the chat “noise” backwards and abode a dot over what would be its additional letter, should it accept been accounting forward.
Saint Louis: So the O would accept been on the additional letter, so I would abode a dot over that ― so, E-S-I-O with that dot-N.
Anderson: And, remember, one amiss and you don’t get to annals to vote.
Saint Louis: I’m trying.
Anderson: [Sighs.] Yes, you are trying. You are aggravating my patience! This absolutely is a decay of my time, because you acutely are not literate. Spell backwards forwards.
Saint Louis: Spell backwards forwards? B-A-C-K-W-A-R-D?
Saint Louis: So your acumen is final?
Anderson: Yes. That allotment you got right.
Saint Louis: I forgot backwards ends with an “s.” For that, my appropriate to vote as a atramentous actuality was taken away. It’s a accidental acumen to get blank in the 1960s. But you’re bluffing yourself if you anticipate affected roadblocks to voting are a affair of past.
That’s why we’re cogent this adventure now. The accomplished isn’t the past. Bodies who appetite to annals still accept to jump through too abounding hoops. And voting can be difficult for some American citizens. Citizens, not bodies actuality illegally. Citizens.
From HuffPost, this is “Shut Out,” a podcast about the activity to vote in America. I’m your host, Catherine Saint Louis. This is Adventure 1, “You Flunked.”
Recently, America went to the acclamation for the midterm elections. No one had to booty a articulacy test. Thankfully, we’ve fabricated a apple of advanced aback then. But accept we? Really?
Sure, we accept the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That was one of the bigger bold changers for American democracy. But in the decades aback the law has passed, our appropriate to vote has still appear beneath attack.
The means bodies get blocked from voting today aren’t the arrant acts we apperceive from history books. They’re abundant added subtle. And admiral generally present voting restrictions as race-neutral and necessary. But aback you alpha to attending closer, it’s bright that’s not consistently the case. Sometimes, the absorbed of these restrictions isn’t attenuate at all.
Can’t allow ID? Sorry, Ma’am, you can’t vote. If you sat out the aftermost brace of elections? Nah, Sir, sorry, your name is no best on the aborigine rolls. And don’t alike get me started on the millions of above felons who still can’t casting a acclamation in this country.
Over the abutting three episodes, and with an eye to the 2020 election, we’ll dig into the means suppressing the vote is abrasion our capitalism and how it adeptness alike be creating a backlash. But for now, aback to the 1960s, aback the articulacy analysis was an insurmountable hurdle for atramentous folk.
Anderson: It is advised to frustrate. It is advised to bang fear. It is advised to demoralize. It is advised to paralyze. It is advised to be an obstacle to the acclamation box.
Saint Louis: That’s why registrars acclimated to accept abounding acumen to ask absurd questions. In Mississippi, they admired to ask ambitious atramentous voters: How abounding bubbles in a bar of soap?
I don’t alike apperceive how to activate to acknowledgment that. I asked my 10-year-old, and he started nervously giggling. It makes no sense, he said. No matter. That was the test. Atramentous association could booty it or leave it.
Different states had altered articulacy tests. In Alabama, voters had to apprehend and adapt allotment of the state’s constitution. We appetite abreast citizens. Fair enough. How adamantine could it be?
But the assay was hardly fair. A atramentous appellant had to apprehend a branch out loud, abounding of legalese, afterwards a distinct misstep.
Anderson: We don’t charge voters who stumble.
Saint Louis: Actuality I am account Area 260 of Alabama’s Constitution. “The assets arising from the sixteenth area assurance fund, the surplus analysis fund, oh, sorry, acquirement fund, acquirement fund…”
Alabama’s articulacy analysis was not attainable at all. It was allotment interpreting built-in law on the atom and allotment performance.
“And the funds enumerated…”
Black men had to apprehend 187 words with no errors. White men got to apprehend a altered admission entirely. They apprehend aloof eight words aloud and they were registered to vote.
“That no actuality shall be confined for debt.” That’s it.
But alike if anybody had been accustomed the aforementioned branch to read, it wouldn’t accept collapsed the arena field. That’s because atramentous people’s apprenticeship had been systematically underfunded to the point that…
Anderson: In abounding abounding locations in the South, the academy arrangement for African-Americans did not accommodate aerial schools. And by the time we’re in the 1940s, in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina, over 50 percent of atramentous adults had beneath than bristles years of academic Jim Crow education.
Saint Louis: And yet, to be able to vote, atramentous association had to adapt Alabama’s Constitution. I couldn’t accomplish faculty of it. I told assistant Anderson as abundant and afresh confessed:
“I mean, I went to academy and I accept my master’s.”
Anderson: So, like, you apperceive words.
Saint Louis: I assumption that fabricated her point that this analysis wasn’t about literacy. It was about award a way to stop atramentous voters. This was strategic. It was all-important because the 15th Amendment had already accustomed atramentous men and above disciplinarian the appropriate to vote. Continued ago. Aback in 1870.
Twenty years later, articulacy tests had their heyday aback Mississippi formulated a plan. It was about answering one catechism for the white assembly who aggregate in Jackson for a assemblage that November.
Anderson: How do we ensure atramentous bodies do not vote? But how do we do that accustomed that there’s this affair alleged the 15th Amendment?
Saint Louis: Right, so they had affectionate of be abject about it.
Anderson: They had to be absolutely sneaky. And so it was a way to say, “We don’t appetite atramentous bodies to vote, but we can’t abode a law that says we don’t appetite atramentous bodies to vote.’ So how do we see to it that atramentous bodies don’t vote and we can still abide constitutional.
Saint Louis: And the way they did that was an arrangement of devices. One ― you estimated it ― was the articulacy test. But that wasn’t the alone one.
Anderson: Poll tax. White primary. Grandfather Clause. Acclamation Day terrorism.
Saint Louis: Let’s allocution about one of the best able means atramentous bodies were kept from voting: poll taxes. Essentially, they’re a pay-to-play scheme. Sharecroppers couldn’t allow to pay, so they couldn’t participate. Plus, a poll tax had to be paid in cash, months afore an election. And sharecroppers alone had banknote backward in the season.
But let’s say a atramentous actuality did accept the money. It still wasn’t bright area they had to pay a poll tax or absolutely when. And did I acknowledgment the tax was cumulative?
Anderson: So that at 21, you’re declared to pay your poll tax, but it takes you, say, 20 years to bulk out area to pay it and to accept the banknote to pay it. You owe 20 years of aback poll taxes afore you can be able to vote.
Saint Louis: Wow. That’s amazing.
Imagine if polling places approved demanding voters today. It abiding would be an able way to lower turnout. But browbeating kept bodies from the acclamation too. Accepting to pay to vote was one thing, but atramentous folks, we acclimated to alive in abhorrence of lynching.
By 1965, a analytical accumulation of civilian rights activists had developed annoyed of actuality disenfranchised.
A celebrated showdown in Selma on Edmund Pettus Arch would conductor in change, but not afore added violence.
Charles Mauldin: Aback we got to the top of the bridge, we could see bottomward and there was the accompaniment troopers array of lined up beyond Highway 80. They had deputized locals who were actual acceptable Ku Klux Klan or Ku Klux Klan types and had accustomed them baton clubs. Abounding of the accompaniment troopers had masks on and at this point we knew it absolutely wasn’t activity to be a actual affable day.
Saint Louis: That’s Charles.
Mauldin: Charles Mauldin, and I’m 70 years old.
Saint Louis: But he was aloof 17 on the day of the beef that would appear to be accepted as “Bloody Sunday.” He had spent the bigger allotment of 1965 absence chic to go to civilian rights marches. He was ailing of actuality advised inferior.
Mauldin: One of the things that got me complex in the civilian rights movement best anon was a faculty of abuse as against to some blazon of organized abstraction like accepting registered to vote.
Saint Louis: What affectionate of abuse did you accord with in Selma in the 1960s?
Mauldin: It was array of like actuality in a big amphitheater bastille with all types of restrictions. You couldn’t go to the library. You couldn’t alcohol out of adduce “the white fountain.” You had to alcohol out of the atramentous fountain. You couldn’t go to a white hospital. And there were abundant penalties if you stepped out of line.
Saint Louis: That day, adverse bottomward badge with baton clubs, Charles happened to be accomplish abroad from John Lewis.
Mauldin: We connected to advanced bottomward the arch and anon confronted the accompaniment troopers. One of the accompaniment troopers acclimated his baton club to hit John Lewis beyond the head, basically animadversion him out.
Saint Louis: Yes, that John Lewis, Georgia’s longtime congressman. Aback then, he was administrator of the Apprentice Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Mauldin: Like I said, I’ll never balloon that sound, and it was a assault blazon of sound. Wood on a skull, you know. Afresh they threw breach gas into the crowd, and I’m not abiding if you’ve anytime been in breach gas, but breach gas causes your eyes to water, causes your bark to burn, and additionally your lungs aloof array of implode. At that point, the alone affair you can do is aloof try to get abroad from it.
Ari Berman: ABC cut into its prime-time premiere of the blur “Judgment at Nuremberg,” which was about Nazi Germany, and showed images of the atrocity on Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, of badge cutting anarchism masks, cutting gas masks, assault civilian rights demonstrators, trampling them on horseback, whipping them, battlefront breach gas into the crowd, and a lot of abashed admirers anticipation they were seeing images of Nazi Germany, but it was absolutely Selma, Alabama.
Saint Louis: That’s Ari Berman.
Ari Berman: I am the columnist of Accord Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.
Saint Louis: Truth was, atramentous voters were abashed every day. Not aloof at protests.
Berman: There was additionally a altitude of a amazing bulk of fear. If you somehow concluded up registering, and you were African-American, they would book your name in the bi-weekly and your address, so aback anybody knew area you lived.
Saint Louis: And abhorrence worked. Alone 2 percent of African-Americans in Selma were registered to vote. Afresh hundreds of peaceful protestors were attacked with baton clubs on Advanced 7, 1965. Afterwards that, voters who had been alone ― bodies like Charles’ parents ― took action.
Mauldin: I anticipate that they both acquainted like the atomic they could do is annals to vote, aback we had all put our lives on the band to get bodies registered.
Saint Louis: Afore that, his parents had approved to annals to vote, but they hadn’t pushed it, because they capital to accumulate their jobs. She was a assistant and he broadcast produce. And afresh Charles risked his life.
Mauldin: You know, your accouchement will get you to do things you wouldn’t commonly do.
Saint Louis: Selma was a breaking point for their ancestors and the nation.
Berman: LBJ knew abundant was enough, and eight canicule afterwards Bloody Sunday, he alien the Voting Rights Act of 1965 afore a collective affair of Congress. Basically the abstraction was this would beating out these affectionate of articulacy tests and accompanying restrictions overnight. On Aug. 5, 1965, there was a articulacy analysis in Alabama, but on Aug. 7, 1965, the day afterwards the admission of the Voting Rights Act, there was no added articulacy test. I beggarly the legislation aloof wiped it out.
Saint Louis: And on Aug. 10, Ardies Mauldin rose aboriginal to go commodity she had never done before.
Saint Louis: What did your mother become acclaimed for?
Mauldin: Well, you know, we never anticipation of her as famous. [Laughs.] But she happened to accept been the aboriginal actuality to annals to vote as aftereffect of the admission of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. I begin out because of a Jet Magazine commodity that was accounting in April, I think, 1969, area she was highlighted. Aback I apparent that, I looked into the agency annal and begin that my father’s affidavit showed him actuality No. 2.
Saint Louis: It took a federal examiner aloof a few account to annals Ardies Mauldin. No added accepting to beg to vote. No added actuality blocked. That’s because the added big affair the Voting Rights Act did was…
Berman: It beatific federal admiral to the South to annals voters. They were activity to force acquiescence with the law.
Saint Louis: Wait, what? Federal examiners were deployed to Alabama area the Ku Klux Klan disqualified the roost?
Sam Levine: Who were they? Were they voting experts? Were they civilian rights lawyers?
Saint Louis: That’s Sam Levine, HuffPost’s voting rights reporter. He capital to apperceive more, too, so he asked Ari Berman.
Berman: They were bodies from the federal civilian account who were accomplished to do this. They were not voting rights experts. They were affectionate of like cardboard pushers in the government who aback begin themselves in Selma, Alabama, accepting to annals bodies to vote in the best segregationist places in the country. But I absolutely interviewed one of them and it was fascinating. He basically said, “We backward in an Army abject and we didn’t associate with the locals,” because they were not well-received.
Saint Louis: But the federal examiners got the job done. On day one, they registered added than 1,100 atramentous voters in nine Alabama counties, 107 in Selma.
Day two. Added than 1,700 atramentous voters registered.
By day 11, 20,000 atramentous voters had been registered in those nine Alabama counties.
Anderson: Oh, it was a seismic change.
Saint Louis: That’s Carol Anderson.
The Voting Rights Act got apparent after-effects immediately. Atramentous bodies lined up to register. Articulacy tests were abolished.
But aborigine abolishment didn’t end already the Voting Rights Act became law. States looked for new means to annul atramentous voters. In Mississippi, for example, assembly redrew districts to adulterate the atramentous vote.
So the Supreme Cloister bound antiseptic that states couldn’t do this. And they focused on a area of the law that initially got actual little attention. It’s called…
Different voices: Section 5.
Saint Louis: The Supreme Cloister fabricated it bright that Area 5 was abundantly powerful. It affected states and counties with the affliction history of bigotry to jump through added hoops. They had to accept all ― all ― acclamation changes afore they went into aftereffect with the federal government. Every distinct one had to be vetted by the advocate accepted or federal board who either said yes [Noises, Woo-hoo!] or no [A acrid beep noise].
Berman: What this allotment of the voting law did was it prevented this abolishment from anytime occurring, because abominable voting changes were blocked in advance. [Harsh beep noise.]
Saint Louis: You get the point.
The added I anticipation about Area 5 and its adeptness to brand out approaching discrimination, I started cerebration about that 2002 Spielberg cine “Minority Report.” I know, I know, it’s not Tom Cruise’s finest work. But bethink how he played a cop who went about endlessly annihilation afore it happened? That allotment was affectionate of incredible. He was allotment of a pre-crime unit.
Section 5 has a agnate power. The adeptness of pre-clearance.
Berman: That was so, so, so important, because in around every added aspect of life, abominable things appear and afresh you accept to claiming them afterwards the fact. But this agape it out beforehand. So it chock-full the abomination afore the abomination anytime was committed.
Saint Louis: For decades, Area 5 meant the federal government was befitting tabs on places with a history of discrimination. And befitting them in check. But all that afflicted in 2013.
Chief Justice John Roberts: I accept the assessment of the cloister this morning in case 12-96, Shelby Canton v. Holder.
Saint Louis: In 2013, the Supreme Cloister abortive the adeptness of pre-clearance.
I’ll bet you’re apprehensive why. Chief Justice John Roberts argued that times had changed. The blueprint for chief which states had to be carefully watched was outdated. Alabama had a articulacy analysis and a shockingly low cardinal of atramentous voters registered in the 1960s and 1970s.
But that was a continued time ago. Should Alabama still accept to accept their acclamation changes vetted decades later?
That didn’t sit appropriate with Chief Justice Roberts.
In the end, the Supreme Cloister absitively the blueprint they acclimated to adjudge which states and counties charge blank ― that blueprint [in Area 4 of the act], it wasn’t constitutional. Afterwards the formula, Area 5 would be nullified.
Not anybody agreed the law should be changed. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that Area 5 had been critical…
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: …to anticipate a acknowledgment to old ways. In 1995, for example, the accompaniment of Mississippi was chock-full by Area 5 from bringing aback its Jim Crow-era dual-voter allotment system. In 2006, Texas was chock-full from abbreviating aboriginal voting in predominantly Latino district…
Berman: The affinity acclimated by Ruth Bader Ginsburg was basically that, “You don’t bandy abroad your awning aloof because it’s not aqueous one day.” And what she was aggravating to say was aloof because aborigine abolishment isn’t accident in a assertive abode or a assertive canton appropriate now, doesn’t beggarly it’s not activity to appear in the approaching ― that it was activity to rain again.
Saint Louis: Already Area 5 was gutted, aural 24 hours, it started pouring.
Berman: You had laws that were absolutely blocked as discriminatory, like Texas’ voter-ID law area you can vote with a blaster admittance but not a apprentice ID ― that law was put into aftereffect hours afterwards the decision.
Saint Louis: A ages afterwards Shelby Canton v. Holder was decided, North Carolina anesthetized a across-the-board carbon of its acclamation laws.
Berman: They appropriate austere ID; they cut aboriginal voting; they alone Election-Day allotment during their early-voting period.
Saint Louis: Atramentous voters acclimated aboriginal voting added than others. Booty it abroad and it’s gonna appulse their turnout. Atramentous voters disproportionately additionally didn’t accept the IDs that the new law in North Carolina required.
A federal appeals cloister would afterwards bang bottomward this North Carolina law, because it said it targeted atramentous bodies with “almost surgical precision.”
Berman: I would altercate that if there are laws that are targeting atramentous voters in such an acute way, afresh apparently those accoutrement of the Voting Rights Act that were disqualified actionable bare to still be in effect.
Saint Louis: A lot of assignment goes into suppressing the atramentous vote, not aloof in North Carolina, but in added states too.
Anderson: Legislators accept gone through the abstracts to bulk out which kinds of government-issued ID African-Americans accept and which kinds they don’t have. They accept afresh accounting into the law to accomplish the Holy Grail the kinds that African-Americans disproportionately do not have. By crafting the IDs that calculation and the ones that don’t count, you afresh accept politicians actuality able to appearance the electorate, to be able to accept who their voters are instead of accepting their voters accept them.
Saint Louis: Let that bore in. Capitalism is declared put adeptness in the easily of voters, the people. Bodies in adeptness aren’t declared to be able to accept who puts them there.
The Voting Rights Act is generally alleged a “crown jewel” of the civilian rights movement. The law badly broadcast admission to the acclamation box for African-Americans. And the law created safeguards to ensure that the places accepted for blocking atramentous voters didn’t do it again.
But in 2013, already the Supreme Cloister about dead Area 5, it freed up states to do what they wanted. Sure, they adeptness get sued, but a new acclamation change could be in aftereffect for an acclamation or two.
No added endlessly bigotry afore it happened. So if a accompaniment capital to abbreviate aboriginal voting, they could. If a accompaniment capital to abutting a polling abode appropriate afore an election, they could. No added federal pre-clearance. No added [Harsh beep] continuing in their way.
You’ve been alert to “Shut Out,” a podcast about the activity to vote in America. I’m your host, Catherine Saint Louis.
It’s 2018. You adeptness be afraid to apprentice there’s still one accumulation of bodies that states can accurately block from voting. Millions of felons can’t vote. Abutting time on “Shut Out,” we’ll allocution to the felons who accept continued been kept from the acclamation box. And to one woman from Texas who paid dearly for not alive she couldn’t vote while out on supervised release. Crystal Mason is now aback in prison. And we’ve got the alone buzz account with her aback she appear for her sentence.
This adventure was appear by Sam Levine, HuffPost’s voting rights reporter, and me. We are edited by Samantha Storey.
I produced this adventure with flat abetment from Nick Offenberg and Sara Patterson.
Special acknowledgment to Paul Josephson, Jo Confino, Bayla Metzger, Morgan Givens. A huge accede to Marc Janks who managed this assembly with grace.
“Shut Out” is a assembly of HuffPost.
Several books helped acquaint this episode, abnormally Carol Anderson’s One Person, No Vote and Ari Berman’s Accord Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.
Excerpts from the Supreme Court’s attainable sessions were provided by Oyez, an annal adherent to authoritative these sessions attainable to everyone.
There are affluence of abstracts account accessories we advised too. Actuality are a few:
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