By: Laisha Harris
With the full context and understanding that black people were still enslaved, the thirteen United States of America declared Independence from Great Britain in July of 1776. What distinguishes America from other forms of government is the doctrine of the separation of powers and the division of the three branches of government: executive, judicial, and legislative. The executive branch represents the power for President and his cabinet to enforce laws. The judicial branch represents the power of the elected judges that interpret the language of the law. The legislature, made up of two ‘branches,’ represent the needs/voice of a population to create law. With this doctrine came the question of who will be represented in the legislative branch, and how?
The Great Compromise of 1787 created the House of Representatives, membership based on the population of the State, and Senators, two for each State, elected by the people. This means the elected power in each State depends on the free population. The Three-Fifth’s Compromise of 1787 determined that in the southern slave states, the enslaved population would receive 3/5 of the representation provided to “all other persons.” This remained law until the end of the American Civil War in 1865.
The Civil War began when 11 southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. Engulfed in these southern states was the culture of abundant profits and inconsequential brutality known as slavery. With ‘free’ land stolen by the Natives and ‘free’ labor stolen from Africa and South America, sold for cheap on the corner of Water and Wall Street, southern whites made up 3/5th of the wealthiest individuals in the county. Needless to say, abolishing slavery threatened the financial stability of slaveowners and economic growth of the states.
In 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery except as punishment to a crime. Abraham Lincoln wrote a Ten Percent Plan, allowing prewar voters that take an oath of loyalty to form a new state government. This allowed freed populations of black communities to form democratic governments, calling for the full civil and political rights of former slaves. After Lincoln’s assassination, Andrew Johnson told the South so long as slavery was abolished and war debts were paid, the government would look the other way when it came to Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws. It wasn’t until 1870 with the Fifteenth Amendment that all citizens, regardless of color or previous status of servitude, would be afforded the right to vote.
While Presidential elections are the most publicized, the State and local elections are the most important. In state and local elections, you are choosing the person you want to be your voice at the Capitol. State and local officials are Constitutionally designed to represent their populations. Through voting power, we can push those representatives to reflect the population.
There are many excuses as to why local elections have a low voter turnout. There is also often confusion as to the purpose behind voting. In fact, the process of learning about the positions of different candidates may sound tedious and overwhelming. It’s not emphasized as much as it should be, but we, citizens, have the right to have a say in the changes that happen in our community. We have the luxury of having the ability to elect and choose an individual of our choosing to protect our property, families, health, job security, education, and domestic safety. With that luxury, we may have to acquire the task of learning about the proposed changes around us and choose a position.
In 2022, there are at least 260 positions that depend on our electorate participation. Since 1980, Texas has been a Republican voting state. 60% of the Texas population are people of color. That means 156 candidates that we choose this year ought to reflect the values in our black and brown communities.
Our ancestors were not privy to the luxuries that we enjoy today. The fight towards equity and against injustice will not be won until all of the warriors do their part. The registration to vote ends on May 7, 2022. https://www.votetexas.gov/register-to-vote/ See you at the polls!