Functional Democracy | Journal-news | journal-news.net – Martinsburg Journal
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Updated: November 20, 2021 @ 2:17 pm
William Zakee McGill, MD, president
Martinsburg Berkeley County WV NAACP
West Virginia is shrinking. Only one other state has a declining population along with WV, and we are also losing a congressional seat. The exodus can be largely attributed to young people, who have cited lack of opportunities and modern technical infrastructures for their departures. Black West Virginians, too, have been fleeing the state in recent years, due to lack of representation and inaction on addressing the challenges facing the Black community.
In the late 19th century, the Black population in West Virginia was approximately 6%. Today, it is almost half that, at 3.6%, and compared to the growing Black population in most states, this is a significant decline. Like the many young people leaving for greener pastures, Black West Virginians feel underrepresented, under served, and underappreciated by the direction the state has taken in recent years. Many of these frustrations stem from a government that is rewarding fundraising from wealthy special interests, rather than serving constituents and the betterment of all communities.
Fortunately, most problems have a solution, and the plight of the young and Black West Virginians can be addressed — at least initially — by passing the Freedom to Vote Act. Authored by West Virginia’s own Senator Joe Manchin, The Freedom To Vote Act makes voting more accessible, ending political corruption by banning dark money, and banning partisan gerrymandering. Only by making our elected officials more accountable to all voters, can we fix the crony incentive system in Congress, and address the problems all West Virginians experience.
So how is a functional democracy linked to racial justice? A great example within the Freedom To Vote Act is the proposed ban on partisan gerrymandering, the practice of drawing congressional district lines to benefit a political party, and this often happens alongside racial gerrymandering. Racial gerrymandering works in the same way as partisan gerrymandering, except that lines are specifically drawn to benefit one racial group, and often negatively impacts representation of minority communities. .
In 2016, the North Carolina Republican legislative body drew a congressional line dividing North Carolina A&T State University, the largest Historically Black University in the nation, in half. This separated the college campus into two districts, 6 and 13, dividing the voting power of Black students who live on the same campus. If that sounds absurd to you, it’s because it is. The impact of gerrymandering on Black and other minority communities creates a system that under represents the true composition of those communities, and leaves them vulnerable to representatives who do not prioritize their best interests or needs.
Make no mistake, this is not a partisan issue, the overwhelming majority of voters across the political spectrum support a ban on partisan gerrymandering. And why? Because the majority of voters want a fair democracy that represents and addresses their needs.
Since the start of this year, forty nine states have passed or introduced voter suppression legislation. If a country can’t ensure that all people can exercise their right to vote, that’s not a democracy. If a country doesn’t address racial justice in the context of voting rights, that’s not a democracy. And especially in America, where we have a long history of Black folks struggling for basic civil rights, and being denied the right to vote and even killed for trying to vote.
We, of the multi-racial nonpartisan NAACP of Berkeley County, want WV to champion voting rights and democracy while considering racial justice implications. Joe Manchin understands this, and he understands that despite West Virginia’s relatively small Black population, that our right to vote is just as sacred as everyone else’s — and must be protected. We applaud his leadership in crafting the Freedom To Vote Act, and urge him to do whatever it takes to pass this bill into law. We have your back, Joe. WV Black voters were Senator Manchin’s margin of victory in his re-election in 2018. We must pass this bill in order to truly have a representative and inclusive democracy, a functional democracy!
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