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The Black Political Voice

by Gerald D. Fuller

Maryland's disenfranchisement statute has its roots in the federal constitution. The state would have its citizens believe that Maryland's election laws which govern disenfranchisement are fair and impartial and are not discriminatory where blacks are concerned. It is precisely because a citizen can lose his franchise rights due to criminal conviction that Maryland's law would be unconstitutional, for the reason that blacks are disproportionately subjected to criminal convictions, and are targets for disenfranchisement. Maryland has a historic pattern of incarcerating blacks in greater numbers than any other racial group. Their incarceration occurs at from a 2-1 ratio to a 3-1 ratio to that of whites.

In 1990 there were 17,057 people incarcerated in Maryland. Of that number 12,695 were black. That is a disproportionate representation of blacks within the Division of Correction. In 1988, an election year, Maryland incarcerated 7,486 people, of that number 4,649 were black people. You would think that blacks outnumbered whites in the state, or were responsible for more crime than whites. The 1984 election year incarceration was hardly any different, Maryland incarcerated 3,592 in that year, of that number 2,358 were black. This incarceration pattern remains consistent from 1926 through 1990.

By the sheer numbers such a conclusion makes it impossible for blacks to have a greater criminal tendency than whites. But what does take place is that where there are concentrations of blacks, more criminal justice dollars are targeted which result in greater police presence and larger court systems that must justify their existence. Courts, police and militia have historically been used to control blacks. Nevertheless, the pattern is consistent from 1926 through 1992, black communities are the central targets of police, while equally they suffer the higher unemployment rates and number of broken families headed by females who find welfare more certain for sustaining life and health than a black male.

It is well established from a sociological point of view that insufficient economic means to achieve a quality lifestyle based on indoctrinatively induced expectations leads to increased deviant behavior. Or, where in the case of Maryland, the elite who control power endeavors to maintain that power and position and the trappings that come with it, orchestrate circumstances in urban areas where blacks are most often concentrated, so as to control the political voice. An example would be in the case of Montgomery County, Maryland, which in many senses is a state within the state. This county has its own separate laws that are passed and enforced by the state legislature. It is a special area in the state, with special status not enjoyed by other areas, which may be due to the level of concentrated wealth. The premise is that the wealth breeds attitudes that in turn produce increased crime in urban areas, and where with increased police presence cause incarceration rates for blacks to rise to disproportionate levels.

In 1990 there were 12,695 blacks incarcerated within Maryland's Department of Corrections who could not vote, not counting those who already served sentences and who were on probation, parole or locked up in hospitals or local and county jails, or who have two or more infamous convictions already. In fact, as many as 56 % of black males of voting age in Baltimore City are under the jurisdiction of the court on any given day. It is argued that because of Maryland's law, these individuals lose their right of franchise due to criminal convictions and that such a conviction rate is deliberately done by the orchestration of situations within the state and in their communities that lends itself to the snaring of blacks.

The fact is that Maryland has a historic pattern of incarcerating blacks at disproportionate rates, and therefrom taking away their political voice. That the net effect of such activity is the systematic disempowering of blacks and the watering down of black political power in the state, which allows for the election from black districts of those who do not truly represent the interests of blacks, and who in turn promote such policies that increase the chances that black men, women and children will end up behind the wired walls and fences of rural areas where their bodies will create jobs for others.

The history of black suffrage is replete with laws erected that have incapacitated the black political voice. They have ranged from poll taxes lodged against people without the economic means to afford such expense, to literacy testing so constructed to prevent the exercise of their franchise rights. Blacks have been intimidated, threatened and murdered by elitist groups intent on preventing them from voting. The use of the criminal justice system is the newest means by which the disenfranchisement of blacks takes place and Maryland has long practiced it. The problem occurring now is that many whites are being caught up in the net.

It is typical of the elitist caste who would suggest that laws that they can twist to benefit them at the expense of other citizens are fair laws. The reality is that blacks in Maryland are little better off than slaves since their political voice requires sanctioning by white voters.

When the constitution is examined, it is discovered that blacks were never intended at the time of its drafting to have the vote. There were deemed as being less than whole persons and the property of white men. [ U.S. Constitution, Art. 1, § 2 para 3 ]. They were further excluded from being defined as citizens in subsequent court decisions such as Scott v. Sanford , 19 HOW 393-633, 701-707 (1856), neither the 13th, 14th or 15th amendment corrected their status as less than complete US citizens. More at heart is the fact that it was never intended that blacks so freed from slavery should remain in the United States and the federal government itself sought to limit the growing numbers of blacks.

Therefore, when the state of Maryland is examined as to its treatment of blacks with regard to their franchise rights, it is fairly easy to establish that the criminal justice system is being used as a means to limit the black political franchise. As such the courts should find that it is unconstitutional to use incarceration and economic deprivation as a means of disenfranchising blacks in Maryland. The net effect of such disproportionate incarceration is the lowering of the numbers of eligible black voters.

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