Voter Suppression: Q&A With Albert Broussard
Texas A&M University Professor of History Albert Broussard said attacks on the voting rights of Black Americans is rooted in the American South with disenfranchisement campaigns, and today have evolved into voter suppression tactics which are being used in states across the nation.
Broussard has spent nearly half a century teaching African American history at the college and university level, and has written numerous books and articles on topics such as slavery, racial equality, race relations and Black urban communities. He has dedicated years of study to “writing about the ceaseless campaign for Blacks to obtain voting rights in the American South,” he said.
Texas A&M Today visited with Broussard to discuss past and current efforts to thwart the voting rights of Black people and other minority populations.
What are the origins of Black voter disenfranchisement?
“Disenfranchisement refers to organized campaigns to strip Blacks and only Blacks from the voting rolls in the American South. The first effort was in 1890 when Mississippi changed its state constitution to make it more difficult for Blacks to vote. Other states followed quickly, but none of these disfranchisement laws mentioned race. Rather, the requirements included grandfather clauses, residency requirements, literacy tests and poll taxes.”
What current efforts do you think are harming minority voting rights?
“The efforts we are currently witnessing are designed to suppress the vote of Blacks and Hispanics, as these two groups have grown in population and Republican legislators have devised ways to minimize their participation. Some examples include making mail-in voting more difficult, limiting the days and hours that voters can cast ballots, curtailing voting on Sundays, a time when many Black churches encourage their congregations to go to the polls, as well as selectively throwing people off of the voting rolls if there is the slightest error in an address or the spelling of a name. There are many other examples as well.
The roots of these latest efforts are the upswing in the number of Black, brown and Asian voters who vote the Democratic Party ticket heavily. The large turnout for Barack Obama served as one trigger for voter suppression by Republican lawmakers. The other motivation was the realization that Republicans, who have lost the last four popular votes for the presidency — Barack Obama twice, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden — cannot win at the polls in a fair election. Mitch McConnell has stated as much on several occasions.”
What impact do voter ID laws have on Black voters?
“Voter ID laws will result in and have resulted in a diminished Black vote. Black voters are less likely to have the official state documents that Republicans increasingly require in order to cast a ballot.
There are states and communities with heavy concentrations of Black voters such as Georgia and South Carolina where there are activists of all races who are working to overcome these obstacles and impediments.”
What else can be done to ensure equal voting rights for everyone?
We must insist that state legislators cease passing voter suppression laws. The passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act by Congress would be a monumental step in this direction.
What reading do you recommend to learn more about this topic?
“The best recent book is Carol Anderson, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy (2018).”
Is there anything you’d like to add?
“My final comment is that I never thought I would see the day when voter suppression once again became a legal method to derive any, Black, white, or brown person, of the right to vote in the United States.”