Nebraska’s Dilemma: Democracy

Two Republican measures attacking our voting process in Nebraska have hearings today before the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

As reported by the Omaha World-Herald, state Sen. Julie Slama has introduced measures requiring voters to show ID in order to cast a ballot and another measure to change the way Nebraska allocates its five Electoral College votes — which helped President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris win the White House.

Following is the testimony against the measures by Preston Love, Jr., a longtime community activist in North Omaha who ran as a Democratic write-in candidate last year for U.S. Senate.

Nebraska’s Dilemma:  Democracy
By Preston Love Jr

I reflect on the iconic speech of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the summer of 1963, where he spoke of his “DREAM.”  Embedded, in that wonderful soliloquy, are the dreams of freedom, justice, and equality.  All dreams have a commonality:  the dreamer wakes up.

Well, I wake up in Nebraska, nearly 70 years later, searching for Democracy, in the state, in which I was born and raised, and I find, as I rub my eyes and finish my wake-up yawn and stretching, I translate King’s dream into hope, that wide awake, I will find Democracy in Nebraska.  Democracy has its derivatives, but the core of Democracy, in this country, is the right to vote, and the expectation of fairness throughout the voting process.  I am wide awake and I am dismayed.

I was raised, in a segregated, redlined, discriminating community, overlaid by layers of racism and bigotry, in my Nebraska.  Lynching’s, killings by law enforcement, mass incarceration, race-based health disparities, educational gaps and disinvestment, we have endured, racial disrespect. I have lived, studied and written, on the history in America, of centuries of voting impediments and violence, forced upon my race repeatedly. Don’t forget the hope brought on by the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, removing race as a barrier to register to vote, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which again, removed race-based barriers to voting. But in spite of all of that, each of those instances were met by opposing forces of Jim Crow, hostile Supreme Court decisions, and an aggressive group of states and forces, who opposed Democracy, mainly because of race and privilege.  While King dreamt dreams, we hope reality has set in.

Unfortunately, the reality is, Nebraska is undermining Democracy.

Nebraska undermines democracy when Attorney Generals, in 17 states, including Nebraska, supported the State of Texas’ lawsuit, which suggested voting irregularities, in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and, called for the stopping of them casting their Electoral College Votes for Joe Biden.  Two of the United States House Members from Nebraska, signed the Motion, and the other one refused to criticize it.  It was frivolous, and an affront to all Nebraska voters and surely the voters of color in those states, and voters of color in our state.

There is no coincidence, but after the strong African American vote, throughout this country for Barack Obama in 2008, the reaction from red states, including Nebraska, was to create measures and devices to try to minimize and suppress future African American votes. What emerged was legislation to force voters to have voter ID, to fix phantom fraud, a disguise for the suppression of people of color. Voter ID presents problems for many other classes of people. Many, red states enacted those voter ID laws, and as expected suppression of votes is occurring.  Nebraska undermines democracy when its tries over and over, year after year, after failure to get Voter ID in Nebraska the questions are, “What’s the problem?  What’s the focus?”  The answer is, it’s an assault on Democracy.

After the 2010 census, the 2nd Congressional District was politically gerrymandered to prevent another such victory and successfully watered down of the Black vote in Congressional District 2. Fast forward to 2020.  In 2020, there was an extraordinarily high vote that gave another victory for Democrats in Congressional District 2. People of color in Nebraska, request have an independent drawing and review of the Congressional District lines, to revert to Gerrymandering, that will continue to water down the Black vote.  The African American community, request passage of the Redistricting Act. For Democracy sake!!

In all states, other than Nebraska and Maine.  “winner take all” legislation, is in place allowing all the state’s electoral votes to go to the winner of state, with no regard for the CD vote total. Nebraska and Maine allow the Congressional District winner to award to the party whose presidential candidate won that district, an electoral vote to that candidate.  That’s what happened in Nebraska’s Congressional District 2, in the 2020 election.  It is no coincidence that immediately, there were calls to eliminate that ability, and return to the unfair “winner take all” technique.  Nebraska again returns to assault democracy and the Black voters in Congressional District 2. On Wednesday, the 17th of February, I found myself testifying before three legislative hearings:  LB76, returning to the “winner take all,” electoral college voting–a potential assault on democracy.  LR3CA, constitutional amendment to require voter ID–a potential assault on Democracy.  LB107, adopting a fair Redistricting Act–a protection against an assault on Democracy.

So, in summary, there is an awakening needed in Nebraska. I challenge the State of Nebraska to recognize, that by suppressing and initiating these mechanisms, to suppress the votes of many, and in particular, people of color, you are assaulting Democracy in the State of Nebraska.  Please note also assent, change and reform.

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