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South Carolina “history and tradition” standing in the way of voting?

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Five days ago Will Moredock, a columnist for the Charleston City Paper in South Carolina made the case for increasing voter turnout in his state. Given the history of disenfranchisement in South Carolina, he says that young folks who are eligible – you can be 17 to vote in a South Carolina primary if you’ll be 18 by the general election – should “be an adult” and vote. But there’s something else that might help increase voter turnout, and it’s something he doesn’t mention. See if you can figure it out.

Historically and traditionally, black people were not allowed to vote in this state, nor were women, nor were more than half of all adult (i.e., age 21) white men. It took a Civil War, a couple of constitutional amendments, a federal Voting Rights Act, and numerous federal court decisions to extend the franchise to almost every man and woman in S.C. But the powers that be fought these changes every step of the way, and they are still fighting. Every time you read that some legislator wants a law requiring a photo ID to vote, you may rest assured that it is simply the latest attempt to bar poor people and black people from the polls.

Of course, tradition affects the meek and the mighty alike. In so much as the dominant class in S.C. has moved heaven and earth to preserve their power and privilege, black people and poor people have learned to be subservient and submissive.

Yes, the laws have changed in recent generations, but attitudes have not caught up. Many South Carolinians — indeed, many Southerners — do not vote because they have no tradition of voting, no habit of voting. They don’t know anyone who votes. No one in the history of their family has ever voted.

History and tradition.

What at best Mr. Moredock doesn’t realize, or at worst he choses not to acknowledge, is that there’s another history and tradition in South Carolina that is making voting inconvenient for many of those who he is encouraging to get to the polls: Tuesday voting. South Carolina is one of 15 states in our country that doesn’t provide for early or no-excuse absentee voting. That means for folks in South Carolina, it’s Tuesday or bust. Got an early morning to late-at-night job? Too bad. Why Tuesday? Well, here’s the answer. While voter registration is indeed important – if not the most important component of getting out the vote – does it help making voting more convenient or accessible?

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