The next post will be by Joan C. Browning, a writer and lecturer who was a Freedom Rider and a Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) worker in the 1960s. I'm including her 2000 essay, "My vote was counted . . . . At least once," as part of my effort to point out the unfortunate continuities between past and present problems with racism and voting rights. As long as things like electronic voting scandals, racial profiling and suspicious hanging deaths of African Americans are viewed as contemporary phenomena, the real problems will not go away.
In her essay, Ms. Browning writes about the sordid history of voting rights in Georgia, where she grew up. Sadly, getting your vote counted in Georgia is still a challenge. The following map from the Harvard University Civil Rights Project study, Democracy Spoiled, shows Georgia's rate of residual ballots (aka, spoiled ballots, ballots cast but not counted) by county in the 2000 presidential election.
Some readers might be surprised to see how high the rates were in 2000. The average rate of ballot spoilage in the nation as a whole was 1.94%. You can see here that almost every county in Georgia exceeds the national average, and in many cases the rate is several times over 1.94%—as much as seven and half times over. (For more on what these figures have to do with racism, read the study and see my long essay, We Who Believe in Freedom . . .)
As Joan puts it in her essay,
America tried to repent of its sin of African slavery by fighting a bloody war to free slaves. It sold out those newly freed African-Americans in the 1876 election, when southern white supremacists traded Electoral College votes to Rutherford B. Hayes in exchange for total control of African-Americans and their white allies. It took three quarters of a century more of freedom struggle to bring forth the Second Reconstruction of the 1960s.
If the voting rights gained in the Second Reconstruction are negated in this election, who has enough faith in American democracy to create the Third Reconstruction?
Joan tells me she is available for paid speaking gigs. She can talk about the 60s and other topics.