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Skeptical 70,000 black voters abstained from presidential vote

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Should 70,000 uncounted black votes cast in Detroit during last month’s general election matter? Are black voters like black lives in that they matter in American politics? Should black votes have the same chance of being counted as other American votes?

Detroit is not a 100 percent black city, but an overwhelming majority of her residents are black Americans.

{mosads} Former presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein’s challenge to election results in Michigan and Pennsylvania ended in a crushing defeat. Federal court decisions halted recount efforts in both states. Although her recount challenge in Wisconsin played out to conclusion. She did not get a win there either. It resulted in President-Elect Trump increasing his victory total over Secretary Hillary Clinton by more than 1,000 votes. 


Thanks to Stein’s call for a recount in Michigan, it was revealed that over 70,000 ballots cast in Detroit, Michigan were not counted in the presidential contest. 

According to Michigan election officials, the 70,000 ballots were counted in down-ballot voting, but it could not be determined whom those 70,000 voters had selected for president. So the votes were tossed out. Had Clinton received those 70,000 votes, she would have won the state of Michigan hands down.

When the recount was ordered shut-down, those (probably largely black) votes were, metaphorically speaking, flushed down the toilet and there is no longer a legal means to have them reviewed by human eyes and counted by hand. Without recounts in other states, we have no way of knowing if other large urban areas, where black people tend to reside, had a big pool of votes discarded because the voting machine allegedly could not determine who the voter intended to select. 

This blatant disenfranchisement of Black voters in Detroit follows a recent erosion of protections under the 1965 Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court. In Shelby County, Alabama v. Eric Holder (2013), the Supreme Court destroyed section 5 of the Voters Rights Act by disallowing key provisions of the Act as being unconstitutional.  Before Shelby, certain states and local governments had to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices. While section 4(b) established a formula that determined which jurisdictions are subjected to preclearance based on their histories of discrimination in voting. 

Two Michigan political sub-divisions came within the ambit of section 5 and 4(b), historically, Detroit did not fall within the purview of the act. Yet it is clear, given the callous response from Michigan election official.s, that “70,000 Detroit voters were so distraught with both major party candidates that they declined to vote for any candidate,” that the Supreme Court was wrong in its 5-4 decision in 2013, which weakened federal protections for black voters in state and federal elections.

Considering the fact that many black Americans believed the 2016 presidential election was their most important vote in the last 140 years, it is ludicrous to think that 70,000 of them in Detroit alone would elect not to vote for president. Many black Americans feared a Trump win would bring back the days of segregation and a resurgence of Klu Klux Klan activity. They were motivated to vote against his candidacy on this belief.

Personally, based upon 2016 campaign rhetoric, I find it hard to believe that nationwide, 70,000 black Americans voted for Stein, Trump and Gary Johnson combined.

Michigan election officials know that in 2013, the Supreme Court in the Shelby County case did essentially what President Hayes did in 1877, when Hayes removed the federal troops from the South in order to be selected president by the U. S. House of Representatives. 

State officials no longer fear federal oversight over election laws. It is now possible for large demographics to be disenfranchised without recourse in the courts. And given the make-up of the Supreme Court, the fact that Trump will have at least four years to fill vacancies on the federal bench and Supreme Court – not to mention the prospect that Alabama Senator Jeff Session will be the next Attorney General – it is likely that other states will resort to the Michigan model for disenfranchising Black voters in federal, state and local political contests.

Suddenly, America feels a lot like it felt growing up black in the south in the 1950s. During that period, it was painfully clear that black lives did not matter and black voters were not welcomed at the polls.

Unquestionably, black lives should matter as much as all others in America. Black voters should have their votes counted too, along with the votes of other Americans. As a future best practice, when the electronic voting machines cannot determine how to apply a citizen’s vote, laws must require each such ballot to be processed by human eyes and counted by hand. If after human inspection, it cannot be deciphered, the voters should be given a chance to come back to the polls and cast that vote over again. 

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Elections Eric Holder Gary Johnson Harold Michael Harvey Hillary Clinton Voting

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