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American Voices: Bernard Lafayette on voting rights

Bernard Lafayette thought his days fighting for minority voting rights were over. The demonstrations done, the battle won. But now he’s not so sure. Not after more than a dozen states passed laws designed to eliminate voter fraud — many of them requiring voters to produce photo IDs. That might make perfect sense. But Lafayette says there’s a big problem: As many as 25 percent of African-Americans don’t have a photo ID, including city kids and the rural poor who never got a driver’s license.

He believes the new laws will make it more difficult for African-Americans to vote, just as it was in the Old South.

Lafayette has already paid a steep price for his commitment to equal voting rights. He was arrested in Jackson, Miss., in 1961, along with other freedom riders. In 1963, after registering black voters in Selma, Ala., he was beaten by a white stranger. Two years later in 1965, he was at the voting rights march in Selma that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” Now, nearly 50 years later, he’s once again committing himself to his cause.

Today, Lafayette and other civil rights leaders are actively working to get more college students to vote and to get elderly African-Americans the photo IDs they don’t have. Just like he and the other freedom riders did a half-century ago.




  • Scott

    Dear Mr. Lafayette, The very simple answer to the voting rights problem that faces all folks in the south, not just people of color, is to simply get an identification card. Why should people of color be exempt from getting an identification card in order to cast their vote? I am white and I am required to show my identification. I am disgusted at your racist view that blacks should be exempt from the requirements with which all the rest of us must comply. What is wrong with you? Are you really looking at this upside down?

  • Susjs

    I am ready to help people get their picture IDs…how do I start? 

  • Anonymous

    I feel sorry for you. Your inability to see things from a different point of view blinds you to more than just this issue.

  • Tamerai

    Wow Scott–I think you don’t understand what he is saying.  Missing the context of the African American experience and the fact that there are many people that have been pushed to the fringes of our society and not able to participate fully.  As an American I would like to se ae more engagement not less.  Let’s not building new laws that further disengage.  Take a deeper look brother Scott with a critical eye and understand history so that you don’t unknowingly support a past state that did not benefit all of Americas citizens.  Please don’t attack a man that has already fought for the rights of people in your life (your mother and sister would not have the opportunities that  they have today without the movement).

    Try hard to see it from all angles…sometimes wisdom provides sight that is not clear to others so listen and learn before you start defending a position.

  • Sara Sprenger-otto

    It is a Fact that there is organized efforts to destroy peoples right to vote !!! Go Bernard Lafayette !! Tell it like it is ~~~Sara

  • Brentmette2

    Mr. Layayette maybe right ,but it is surely about money . The states make much more selling the I.D.s . If more people worshiped the Lord not money there would be know issue !!!  God bless our souls ?

  • Daphnegratiot

    Every generation must fight for rights, some times even those won many times before. Nevertheless, it is heart breaking. Like Susjs I want to help. Please ask.

  • Faye Anderson

    Sadly, the struggle continues. And because it does, I am spearheading a citizen-led effort to develop the Cost of Freedom App, a location-based web app that will provide voters with concise information on how to apply for a voter ID. We will launch the app on March 7 to commemorate “Bloody Sunday.” For more information, please visit

    As for a song, I’d suggest Ray Charles’ “I’m Busted.” In these tough economic times voters are busted, too broke to pay the high cost of a “free” voter ID. We hope the Cost of Freedom App will minimize the number of voters who give up in frustration and mic check Ray Charles: “Oh, forget it. Oh, the hell with it.”

  • Aletha Walker

    I got a short little song. 
    Please take a picture of me so I can use the rites won for me.  Now they say I have to have a picture ID to vote so please wont you take a picture of me.

  • Freedog70

    After u register, that should be all the ID u need – Voter fraud is a myth therefore, this whole show ur ID law is bunk! No illegal immigrant is going to try to vote, we can’t even get Americans to vote! U should show up with ur registration card and be able to vote! and if u cannot find it then anither alternative is ur ID – but as long as u show up, with or without ur ID, u should be allowed to vote – it is ur right! U should be given a provisional ballot so that they can check ur information after the polls have closed during the counting process! No one should be told that they cannot vote – white black or otherwise – make no mistake, they are trying to disenfranchise poor whites as well – all minorities!

  • Freedog70

    The real problem is Election Fraud! The republicans’ couldn’t even get their own votes counted properly – No one knows for sure who won Iowa?

  • Cmrobinson1969

    II think its horrible that after all we have been through black people are still for the right to be accounted for.

  • oprwer

    Baloney. There are organized efforts to steal elections with same-day registration. Why do you refuse to look at how elections have been rigged in places like Chicago? Cut thru the bleeding-heart emotionalism and look at reality as it actually is.

  • oprwer

    Absolutely! Why should this be such a burden? One can’t board an airplane without an i.d. – you can’t even show up at a condo-selling swindle without one. There are plenty of instances that we are all called upon to prove who we are. Why should Democrats be allowed to steal elections year after year and use the race card to silence any opposition? Also, African-Americans should stand up to this crap and say “Quit acting as if we’re only partial citizens and can’t be expected to be held accountable just like everyone else.”

  • Aletha Walker

    According to a news show there was over 1,000 dead people that voted in the South Carolina primary election.  I can see after hearing that why people need a picture id to vote.  Someone is not doing their job somewhere so with a picture id it would make it a little harder for these people to cheat the voting system.  Still not fool proof just a little harder is all.  Where there is a will some enterprizing person will find a way arround the system or run right over it.

  • Aletha Walker

    sorry folks I mistyped the website it is