Queer eye beauty guru Jonathan Van Ness knows how to deliver a message. Just as he convinced the heroes of his hit Netflix series to adopt a new skincare routine or cut their hair, he encourages citizens to prepare a voting plan ahead of the 2020 election. Van Ness recounts a video entitled “Land of freedom, house of electoral repression!” which describes the American history of voter suppression and highlights the power to go to the polls.
“The United States has a pretty horrible voting rights record,” says Van Ness, recounting centuries of tactics used to suppress the vote, especially for people of color. The video is part of Amazon Studios ‘#ALLINFORVOTING series, which aims to educate voters, get them to vote, and encourage viewing of Stacey Abrams’ documentary. All In: The struggle for democracy.
Since the founding of the United States, most states have allowed only white male landowners to vote, says Van Ness, who made up just six percent of the population. “The first United States was Great problematic, “he continues.” For example, in 1790, 700,000 out of 4 million people in the United States were black slaves. In 1860 there were 4 million slaves. And of course, none of those slaves could vote. In fact, they had no rights. “
As Van Ness explains, the liberation of slaves through civil war and the passage of the 15th Amendment did not ensure equality. Thanks to the intimidation of Ku Klux Klan voters and various tactics such as the literacy tests required of black voters, only 3% of southerners registered to vote in 1940. “Decades of electoral repression have worked, ”says Van Ness. “But what about everyone? Well, some women, like the only white women, won the vote in 1920 after nearly 100 years of relentless activism. Native Americans did not receive it. the right to vote of all states before 1948. And most immigrants of Asian origin could not become citizens and vote until 1952. Meanwhile, black citizens are still excluded from the right to vote in the south. “
Enter late civil rights leader John Lewis, whose work, along with thousands of other activists in the civil rights movement, led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act 1965. This legislation prohibited literacy tests, the denial of a person’s right to vote and the dilution of a person’s voting power. As black voter registration has skyrocketed and black politicians won seats at the table, Van Ness says a path to the polls can still be filled with obstacles.
Politicians continue to use voter suppression techniques like redefining electoral districts in their favor. They are closing and underfunding polling stations and passing voter identification and voter verification laws that disproportionately impact communities of color. And sometimes they purge marginalized people outright from voters’ lists, as Brian Kemp did in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial election. Oh, what about the voting rights law? In 2013, the Supreme Court gutted key provisions in a 5-4 decision. As a result, nearly 1,700 polling stations were closed in the South. And it’s not just people of color, people with criminal records and disabilities still have many obstacles at the polls. Does all this piss you off? It should.
Van Ness’ call to action begs viewers to sign up “and vote for non-evil people who will fight for you.” With the 2020 presidential election less than two weeks away and the myths about the voting process rampant, it has never been more vital to exercise your civic duty.
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