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For those concerned about the Voting Rights Act

June 27, 2013
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Thought I’d share with you a post I made on Facebook.

It would be a mistake to assume that the Voting Rights Act in any way ensured that all African Americans were able to vote. The biggest factor in suppressing minority vote is not even addressed by the Voting Rights Act — felony disenfranchisement.

5.8 million Americans are unable to vote because of our obsession with over-incarceration and the drug war, and it hits minorities hardest by a long shot. 1 in 13 African-Americans nationally are unable to vote. Given current rates of incarceration, three in ten of the next generation of black men can expect to be disenfranchised at some point in their lifetime. In states that disenfranchise ex-offenders, as many as 40% of black men may permanently lose their right to vote (source: Sentencing Project).

Drug war incarceration has been referred to as the “New Jim Crow,” and built right into our drug laws are enforcement incentives that make racist outcomes certain.

Despite the fact that blacks and whites use drugs at roughly the same rate, in our enlightened northern state of Illinois, blacks are 7.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites (see ACLU report released this month). Federally, blacks now make up 82% of crack defendants, up from 79% in 2009. In every aspect of the drug war you find similar results, with African Americans (and Hispanics) bearing a dramatically disproportionate share.

So go ahead and mourn the death of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which provided some useful election oversight in certain states and counties determined 40 years ago. Howl at the injustice of the Justices.

But if you really care about making sure all Americans are enfranchised, then you might be better off working to end this racist drug war.

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Pete Guither is the editor of drugwarrant.com

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