Ballot Access is a Civil Rights Issue
By Faye Coffield, in response to the Supreme Court of the US’s refusal to rehear Coffield’s ballot access challenge against the State of Georgia for its five percent petition requirement for non-statewide races.
As a Black woman born in the mid portion of the last century in the United States I recognize the importance of all citizens or persons, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender to have the opportunity to participate in the electoral process.
While many point to Brown, et al v. Tokepa as the lankmark case in modern civil rights, I beg to differ. The most important piece of human and civil rights legislation was the Voting Rights Act.
When schools were ordered desegregated as a result of Brown, some Whites were able to move their children to newly created White-only schools which used various means to keep ethnic groups out.
When housing was ordered integrated we began a process of nomadic existence where Whites moved, taking with them the resources necessary for a decent life including public primary education facilities.
In an effort to obtain the best for themselves and their children Blacks and other ethnic groups return to the nomadic process of following the resources.
However, it was the vote and the ability to vote for candidates representing the interest of the community they served which to some posed the most danger.
It was when the fight turned from integration and assimilation to voting and ballot access that the game changed and violence was introduced.
From Selma to Birmingham to Mississippi to all parts of the South this is when the game changed to violence.
The bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, to Jimmie Lee Jackson, to Viola Luzzio, to the beatings on the bridge in Selma, it was about the right to vote and to vote for the candidate of your true choice.
I often wonder if the decisions of Brown and others which ended segregation would be the same with the current court. Painfully I do not believe the current Court would take such a courageous stand.
Today young men and women are dying on foreign soil in two wars for the rights of foreign citizens to hold free elections and to vote for an independent candidate.
Some have asked me how the Court could deny qualified independent candidaes access to the ballot and thereby deny public a choice. I say think Shunni and Shiite instead of Republican and Democrat because when all is said and done there really is no difference.