“Why African-American [Blank] Matters” Series Launches with Talk on Voting Rights

patrick rael in officeKicking off the first of a series of talks this month called, “Why African-American [Blank] Matters in America,” Professor of History Patrick Rael gave a lecture on voting and why reducing obstacles to voting is important to protect minority rights.

The event, organized by the student-run African American Society, took place in MacMillan house as a part of Black History Month.

Rael said that voter-identification laws suppress voting rights. He studies African American history, with a particular emphasis on the Antebellum period, and he drew comparisons between current voter-ID laws and the Jim Crow laws established in Southern states following the Civil War.

Voter-ID laws have become more wide-spread after the Supreme Court recently decided to uphold states’ rights to pass laws requiring voters at polls prove their identity with official government identification, such as passports or driving licenses.

Though voter-identification laws are supposedly intended to prevent voter fraud, voter fraud occurs very infrequently in the United States. Rael argued that voter-identifications laws disproportionately affect African Americans and other minorities who are less likely to possess driver’s licenses or passports. These laws can help elect candidates who do not support African American interests and communities, and it is suspected that one of the motives to pass such legislation is to disenfranchise constituents who don’t support certain political agendas.

Ashley Bomboka ’16, president of the African American Society and one of the event’s organizers, said in an interview following the event that it’s important to talk about how civic engagement can be curtailed with measures such as voter-ID laws. “How can you as an individual participate if you’re disenfranchised?” she said.

To see more Black History Month events, go here.

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