The disastrous Supreme Court ruling that crippled the Voting Rights Act three years ago has emboldened aggressive new attempts at voter suppression by local officials in jurisdictions that have been freed from federal oversight. In Sparta, Ga., last year, white election officials decided to systematically question the registrations of more than 180 voters, mostly African-Americans, by dispatching sheriff’s deputies to flag them down. These voters were served with “courtesy” summonses ordering them to appear in person to prove their residence to officials or lose their voting rights. In an echo of the Jim Crow South, the black voters described how they were suddenly approached by a uniformed police officer challenging their right to vote.
“I was kind of nervous,” one of the voters told Michael Wines of The Times. “I didn’t know what to do.” Local officials said the goal was to guard against voter fraud. This false excuse has been used to impose numerous voter suppression rules this election year — a threat that research has repeatedly shown is not a problem in American elections.
With the Supreme Court having gutted the Voting Rights Act provision that required all voting changes in Georgia to be pre-cleared by federal monitors, black Sparta residents had no option but to file a lawsuit last year challenging the purging of 53 registered voters from the rolls. They accused election officials of scheming to give an edge in municipal elections to a white mayoral candidate, who eventually won by a narrow vote in the 2015 election.
Full Article: Echoes of Jim Crow for Sparta Voters – The New York Times.