Lena Mitchell

LENA MITCHELL

Many voters become discouraged and disheartened about voting when the results do not go as they hoped, and even when their candidate wins, but does not live up to expectations.

Nevertheless, African Americans have historically understood the importance of voting. The economic, educational and social gains we’ve experience in past decades have resulted directly from political engagement in elections and at the voting booth.

The 2020 Black History Month theme from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, “African Americans and the Vote,” seeks to remind us of that history.

As recently as the national elections in 2018, cases of voter intimidation and voter suppression were documented.

• Election officials denied voter registrations for students at Prairie View University in Texas, a historically black university, because they did not have the correct street address that students were required to use. The election officials had changed the address requirement after giving the students a different instruction when they first registered to vote.

• Native Americans who were previously registered voters were purged from voting rolls because they did not have a street address but used a post office box. These voters live on tribal lands which do not have traditional street addresses.

Voting laws are established by states, and those laws often change without the average voter being aware how the changes may affect them.

In Mississippi:

Absentee voting: Any registered voter may vote absentee if they will be unable to vote during voting hours on election day, such as absence from town, work schedule and so forth. Anyone who is age 65 and older may vote absentee without needing a reason. Absentee ballots are cast at your county’s circuit clerk’s office during regular business hours, and absentee ballots for Mississippi’s March 10 primary election are available now.

• If you do not have photo identification you may obtain a free photo voter ID card at the county circuit clerk’s office.

• Check in your county’s circuit clerk’s office to be sure the address for your voter registration is current so that you will vote at the correct polling place. If you go to the wrong voting precinct, you may have to cast an affidavit or provisional ballot, which will not be counted until your voter registration is validated later.

• Counties will sometimes change boundaries for voting precincts, so confirm your voting correct precinct at your county circuit clerk’s office.

As writer and philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Let us not return to the dark days of African American history when we didn’t have the right to vote.

Let us not forget the dark days of African American history when so many people sacrificed their lives to give us the life-changing opportunity to vote.

Let us cherished that right, and be as determined to fight to keep it as our forebears were.

LENA MITCHELL is a retired Daily Journal reporter who continues to write a regular column. Readers can contact her at lena.mitchell.dj@gmail.com.

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