Recently, a Black congresswoman from Florida revealed that white legislators from the state’s redistricting body changed her district to include the states overcrowded but under represented prisons, thereby insuring her defeat when the next election comes along, for prisoners can’t vote.
While legislator Corrine Brown (D, 5th District), has a claim, the better solution shows us how the Congressional Black Caucus has failed its constituencies and its members by not fighting for deeper, broader voting rights – like enfranchisement of prisoners.
In South Africa, the post-apartheid government opened the door to prisoners voting. The same practice holds for Israel.
If the Congressional Black Caucus had fought for and prevailed on prisoner enfranchisement, Rep. Brown would have no viable argument against her redistricting, for prisoners would be allowed to vote as everyone else.
The nation that claims to be a democracy should not exclude people from voting, but seek the broadest, deepest constituency. All of the people should be represented – not just some.
The prisoner exclusion from voting arises from state attempts to weaken Black political power of the Reconstruction, which outlawed all Black voting under white supremacist legislatures and governments.
The echoes of that tradition remain a principle in American Law, with little, other than tradition itself, as justification.
This is no solution to the crisis of mass incarceration.
Not by a long shot.
But Mao famously said, “Politics is war without bloodshed.”
It has its place too, to combat the extreme isolation facing captives of the biggest imprisonment boom on earth.
It’s not a solution. It’s not a talisman to be worshipped. It’s a tool.
And the oppressed need every tool that they can touch.