Reprinted from Truthdig
I hate to spoil a happy ending.
Half a century ago Alabama state troopers and a mob of racist thugs beat African-Americans and others as they marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, demanding no more than the right to vote. By the time King led 25,000 demonstrators singing "We Shall Overcome" into Montgomery, the state capital, on March 24, the president of the United States had introduced the Voting Rights Act. Free at last -- to vote. Roll credits.
Yet, just a few months ago, Martin Luther King asked me, "How long until African-American citizens of Alabama -- and Mississippi and Georgia -- get the unimpeded right to vote?"
Obviously I was not speaking with King Jr. -- a bullet stole him from us in 1968. The question was posed by his son, Martin Luther King III. I spent an afternoon at his home in Atlanta, where we pored over the latest evidence that Americans of color were blocked at the doors to the polls in the 2014 midterm elections -- by the hundreds of thousands.
As King's 6-year-old daughter serenaded us with her toy drum set, we dived into a massive, secretive database used by elections officials -- almost all of them Republicans -- in 28 states. The scheme, called "Interstate Crosscheck," threatens to disqualify the ballots of over a million voters, overwhelmingly citizens of color.
It took six months for my investigations team, in coordination with Al-Jazeera America, to get its hands on the names of those tagged for the voting rights slaughter.
According to the GOP officials, these citizens had voted twice in the same election, in two different states -- a federal crime. As punishment, their mail-in ballots would be junked and their registrations annulled. But no reporters had seen (or, for that matter, asked for) the lists. State officials, the modern-day equivalents of Bull Connor, refused our requests on grounds that these Americans were all suspects in a criminal investigation and therefore the files were confidential.
Nevertheless, we managed to get hunks of the lists -- 2.1 million names of a total 3.5 million "suspected double voters."
Who are these criminal voters? A typical example: Kevin Antonio Hayes of Durham, N.C., allegedly voted a second time in Virginia as Kevin Thomas Hayes. The Durham Hayes, however, swears to me that he has never used the alias Thomas or set foot in Virginia. Another: James Elmer Barnes Jr. of Georgia allegedly voted a second time as James Cross Barnes III of Arlington, Va.
The lists go on like that: huge numbers accused solely on the basis of sharing a first and last name with a voter in another state.
It is clear what attracts Republican Katherine Harris wannabes to this absurd method of identifying fraudulent voters. The prevalence of name-sharing among black Americans is a legacy of slavery. The "Crosscheck" name-match game is also a darn good way of knocking off Hispanic voters. (According to the national census, at least 91.5 percent of Americans named Aguirre are Hispanic and, according to Gallup, two out of three vote Democratic).
I was suspicious -- if Kevin Hayes really voted twice, authorities should have arrested him. They should have arrested 589,393 "criminal double voters" in North Carolina alone. But they busted none. Nevertheless, the officials got what they wanted: For example, enough voters of color were blocked, purged and disqualified to help knock a Democrat out of the U.S. Senate this past November.
This situation deeply concerns Martin Luther King III, founder of the Realizing the Dream Foundation. Fifty years after Bloody Sunday and the Voting Rights Act, he said, "The irony is that when you look at Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, where you have significant African-American populations -- Mississippi close to 50 percent -- those states still have leadership that is totally Republican."
The black vote should have turned those states solid Democratic blue. What happened?