The Maddening Experience of VWB (Voting While Black)

Revolutionary Worker #1258, November 14, 2004, posted at

On Election Day, an RW reporter and RCYB member went to several polling places in the Black community in Cleveland. These are some of the things people had to say about what happened when they went to vote:

"I am a felon and have the right to vote but I don’t know if my vote counts. They [the Republican challengers] are like guard dogs. They just sit there and I don’t know who is a guard dog."

"Word is out there that felons can’t vote even though they can. People are being run around, told they are in the wrong precinct, then they go to another one and again it’s the wrong place and then they say to themselves, `Let someone else vote, I am not voting.’"

"They put a thousand names in the Plain Dealer of people that couldn’t vote. I filled out the form three times and I was still on that list. If I wasn’t someone who persevered, I wouldn’t be voting today. I am still unsure if I go there today, I will be able to vote. I think there was a conspiracy to keep people from voting. I never voted in my life. The people they put on the list are people who are elderly and don’t have access to transportation. So they are going to be discouraged."

"This guy came in, him and his mother. She owns a house here. They have voted here for years. And I have voted for 30 years and I have never been asked to show ID. Because he didn’t have ID, they wanted to give him a provisional ballot. He didn’t want the provisional because he knows it is not going to be counted on time. They want you to either walk out and not vote, or take a provisional ballot and not be counted. They [the Republicans] want to discourage people from voting. I called the voter help line and told them, `They turning people away like it’s 1962.’ A guy at the poll in there said, `You can take a provisional ballot or go!’ "

"A Republican challenger told a lady she could not vote because she had on a shirt that supported Mr. Kerry. When the woman told me I said, `Oh no, sweetheart. We ain’t goin to have that.’ People came out in large numbers to say, `It happened in Florida. It is not going to happen in Ohio.’ And no telling what Bush is trying to get in line but he is trying to get something in line. But I believe in my heart that people are saying, `NO you’re not!’ "

"We had one lady raving inside, you know, about people being asked for addresses and stuff. She was hollering `Jim Crow’ and that’s true because back in those days they were asking for IDs and stuff like that. You’re supposed to be able to vote without all that."

"It seems like we’re going backwards in time. We had tons of people out there of all races. I couldn’t believe how the Republican challenger was trying to intimidate people who were having trouble voting. My grandparents always told me stuff like that happened [during Jim Crow] but you never really realized it, you never really saw it happen. But after today I’m like whoa—we weren’t even supposed to be back out here helping people, but we came back out tonight just because it wasn’t right what has been going on to discourage Black people from voting. You just can’t do that."

"They keep us in such a position where just to survive with very basics, causes you do not have the energy to do anything else.. So it’s not that people don’t care or have opinions or don’t know. So much is at stake and somebody’s [Bush’s] running scared. They don’t want people to vote, especially Black people. You do get the feeling of being oppressed. If Bush gets elected we probably will take it to the streets."