Today Americans are going to the polls to vote in state and local elections. But one year from now, millions of black Americans could find themselves shut out of that essential democratic right.
Larry Butler, a longtime voter, may be one of those denied. Butler was born in 1926 in South Carolina. He remembers well the days of Jim Crow, poll taxes and literacy tests that barred many African-American citizens from the voting booth. He witnessed the valiant struggle to ensure that all of South Carolina’s citizens could raise their voices on Election Day.
Now it seems like those days are back. Butler was born at home during an era of strict segregation in which African Americans did not have access to hospitals. Because Butler does not have an official birth certificate, he was denied the free, state photo ID and was told it would cost $150 to get the required document to obtain one. He experienced a modern-day version of the poll tax. Unlike Butler, most Americans will not have to pay more than $100 to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right. The Associated Press recently reported that South Carolina’s law will, in fact, hit black precincts the hardest.