Steven Hahn Quotes

[There are] coordinated efforts across the country to intimidate and suppress the votes of racial and ethnic minorities .... Hostile officials regularly deploy the language of “fraud” and “corruption” to justify their efforts much as their counterparts at the end of the 19th century did to fully disenfranchise black voters… Although our present-day tactics are state-issued IDs, state-mandated harassment of immigrants and voter-roll purges, these are not a far cry from the poll taxes, literacy tests, residency requirements and discretionary power of local registrars that composed the political racism of a century ago. That’s not even counting the hours-long lines many minority voters confronted.

At that time a number of state legislatures all changed their state voting laws to require citizens who try to register to vote to have documentation of various kinds and or obtain special documentation. These were generally possessed by upper class and educated people but not in as large proportions by lower and working class people. To obtain the documents and register if things like original birth certificates were not possessed, the citizen had to lose much of a day’s work and travel some distance. The burden existed on most lower class people and especially the minorities. The courts nullified some of these discriminatory requirements for voter registration, but many were allowed. The rationale was to prevent voter fraud and yet there were almost no cases of voter fraud in the entire country. While the requirements were racially discriminatory, they were also socioeconomically discriminatory. By coincidence, or perhaps not, every state that added these requirements had a Republican controlled state legislature AND a Republican Governor. Despite the effort to suppress Obama and Democratic voters, the effort backfired. Minorities and especially Blacks were so outraged that Jim Crow voting suppression had returned that they made a huge effort to register and get out the vote and Blacks voted in a much larger proportion than historical and well over 90 percent voted for Obama who won the election handily.

Steven Hahn, Historian, “Political Racism in the Age of Obama”, New York Times, November 10, 2012

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  • Born: July 18, 1951
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  • Profession: Historian

Steven Hahn is Professor of History at New York University.

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