Voting in Black communities this election has included any number of sound bites best summed as ‘Buy Black!’ ‘Vote Black!’ A community leader tells listeners to, “Vote as if you are making that mark for Martin, Malcolm, Medger, Coretta, and even little Emmitt Till (who was robbed of his chance to vote by race hate and race speech).
In a two-second sound bite, a candidate promotes, ‘vote for folks who look like you’ during a crowed forum. The two-second sound bite sparks yet another round of debates over Whites running in largely Black Districts.
And as late as last Monday night, when the Shorewood community hosted an extremely fair and productive forum for the 10th District Assembly seat, the Wisconsin Progress candidates moved to the parking lot, joined forces with Fox 6 news affiliates to only discuss the Black/White issue for the remainder of the evening.
Wanting to believe that we have outlived blatant racism, White candidates, responding to race-baiting speech from groups like Wisconsin Progress, have initiated heated debates in our community as to whether or not a non-black candidate can win in a district that is still predominately Black; if Black voters should vote for someone based on color or credentials and ability; and whether a White candidate can relate to and advocate on behalf of the issues of Black constituents in the legislative chambers of the State Capitol.
Wisconsin Progress is best described as a candidate-training program where the success of its students tends to mean more tuition money and publicity for the program—with no regard for ethics or morality. Race-baiting is still considered a very low blow even for those who believe that politics is dirty business.
Answers to these questions are all personal decisions when all things are equal.
In the 10th Assembly District, however, all things are not equal in the democratic process after the 2011 redistricting—volatile and injurious enough to turn our Country on its heels. The Voting Rights Act applies to redistricting to prevent states and localities from drawing districts that deny minorities a chance to elect a candidate of their choice. Poll taxes and voting tests are part of a short list of tactics used to dilute minority vote; race gerrymandering is equally important and equally protected by the Act.
The choice of this voting bloc can be Black, White, purple or green; the operative word here is ‘choice.’
The most recent reauthorization of Federal VRA for another twenty-five years passed by wide bipartisan margins in 2007 — when Republicans controlled the U.S. Congress and George W. Bush was president. The Voting Rights Act is seen as one of the most successful pieces of legislation, being credited with the election of 9,000 African-Americans, 5,000 Latinos, and numerous Native Americans to local, state, and national offices. Those minority candidates were not elected solely because of being Black or White but because they were the ‘choice’ of that voting block of ‘eligible-voting’ minorities.
In developing the 2011 maps, individuals turned a blind eye to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and then refused to allow Federal Judges the opportunity to correct the racial gerrymandering defined for the 10th District. July 2011, Wisconsin Legislature passed laws that put in place the States Senate and Assembly District maps for the next 10 years. During the Public Hearing it was clear that Milwaukee Districts 8, 9 and 10 were drawn in violation of Majority-Minority Districts as spelled out in Section 2 of the Federal Voting Rights Act (VRA). A majority-minority district is one in which racial or language minorities form a majority (at least 50% or more) of the voter eligible population. The definition of eligible voter population varies by state and can include factors such as age (over 18) and other barriers that define legal voter eligibility.
Blacks remove Black voting bloc from lawsuit. Beginning in March, Wisconsin Progress candidates and its financial supporters visited Milwaukee Black civic leaders and pastors to confront and label them as ‘racists’ when choosing to vote for Black candidates. This was a political ploy to divert attention from the real issue –blatant violations of the Voting Rights Act.
Leading up to the lawsuit, the only discussion was that of the opportunities for a majority-minority districts in Wisconsin’s 8, 9 (Latina) and 10 (Black) Assembly Districts were ignored and should be corrected. The lawsuit was filed.
The three-Judge panel sent all three District back to the State to consider redrawing now that the matter was on the table; to no avail.
Federal Judges rule. However, prior to their ruling. The Claims (in part or in whole) that apply to Blacks in the 10th District are dropped from the case.
The Ruling explains in detail the inappropriate activity and participation by a number of individuals in developing the 2011 Senate and Assembly maps. Their Ruling, however, must be limited to just the Claims that remain before them.
Had the Black voting bloc been allowed to remain within the lawsuit, there is no doubt that the final ruling would have been a corrective action for that group, as well.
The Judges ruled in favor of Wisconsin’s 8 and 9 Assembly Districts solely based on ‘eligible voter’—taking into account the legal ramifications that can render an 18 year old person ineligible to vote.
[Legal voting ineligibilities for residents can include measurable blocs of immigration, felony disenfranchisement, and medically-defined mental health disabilities—to name a few.]
The Judges determined that ineligible voters rendered the potential majority-minority districts with a less that 50% cohesive voting bloc. Adding injury to injury, an entire community of Whites are now chipped away from its like-minded, lake-front voting communities and added to the 10th District.
It is believed that this White bloc will vote together and not in unison for the Black majority’s preference candidate. (This injury is one of 3 preconditions that the US Supreme Court has used in previous rulings in favor of redrawing Majority-Minority Districts).
These same ineligibilities, in different proportions, heavily apply to the 10th District, as well, and render it less than a 50% voting bloc.
But the opportunities for correction were thwarted by individuals—some of whom are Black—who believe that they can use this inequity to their advantage in defining ‘winners’ for the District—instead of allowing the District to legally ‘chose’ the candidate of its choice.
The August 14 Primary election of an Assembly person in the 10th District under such tenuous circumstances follows a June 2012 Gubernatorial election where these same residents were part of the Northside electors who simply did not provided enough ballots on Election Day. Regardless of outcome, every eligible elector deserves (and is legally entitled to) the right to have their political voice heard.
What can we do at this point. Vote! Vote, wisely! When choosing or promoting in the 10th Assembly District, perhaps one should take into account the candidate(s) who have spent months literally ‘milking’ the Black/White language as race-baiting and as a diversion from our responsibility to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.