Unlike in many parts of the world, America remains a country founded on a strong legislature. The country believes, in essence, that a corrupt legislature is better than an overly powerful judiciary.
America has, over time, used the legislature to achieve its agenda through laws and enactments. During the slave era, many inhuman acts of slavery remain unpunished to date because they were backed by law.
Even when these laws were amended, there were provisions backed by law to maintain hidden agendas and continue with the same crime previously backed by law expressly. A significant example of this is in the wake of the passage of the 15th Amendment and Reconstruction.
Before this time, the law restricted Black Americans from voting. Following the ratification in 1870 of the 15th Amendment, states were barred by law from depriving citizens of voting based on race.
However, the move was made to paint the Americans in a good light, as their intentions were the opposite. The law gave provision for southern states to enact measures such as poll taxes, literacy tests, all-white primaries, felony disenfranchisement laws, grandfather clauses, etc.
So, why the laws in the land stated that citizens could vote regardless of their race, Black citizens could not vote because of the enactments, which were impossible to fulfill. The legislature often used measures like this to clear their books, save their faces, and carry out their selfish bidding of preventing African Americans from the polls.
The state was focused on retaining power with the white supremacy. So, during the electoral process, legislators consciously created loopholes in the 15th Amendment to implement a range of measures to disenfranchise Black voters without explicitly characterizing them based on race.
Despite the stringent enactments, more than a half-million Black men were able to scale through and joined the voting rolls during Reconstruction in the 1870s. Their votes helped in the election of nearly 2,000 Black men to public office.
Again the White supremacists fell to the law for help. Mississippi led the way in using measures to circumvent the 15th Amendment by enacting the Jim Crow laws. Mississippi's Jim Crow-era laws set a precedent for other southern states to use the same tactics to assault Black enfranchisement for nearly a century until the passage of the Voting Rights of 1965.
At the 1890 Mississippi State Convention, a new constitution was adopted that included a literacy test and poll tax for eligible voters. Under the new literacy requirement, a potential voter had to read any section of the Mississippi Constitution or understand any section when read to him, or give a reasonable interpretation of any section.
"There is no use to equivocate or lie about the matter," said James Vardaman in 1890. Vardaman served in the Mississippi Legislature at the convention and later became governor of the state.
"In Mississippi, we have in our constitution legislated against the racial peculiarities of the Negro. When that device fails, we will resort to something else," he added.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 walked back part of the Voting Rights Act when it ruled in a 5-4 vote that constraints placed on specific states and federal review of states' voting procedures were outdated.
In the wake of the Shelby County v. Holder decision, several states have enacted laws limiting voter access, including ID requirements, limits on early voting, mail-in voting, and more.
What are your thoughts?