By Philadelphia City Commissioner Omar Sabir
Philadelphia’s elections are simple, safe, and secure, a fact that has been proven and confirmed by every credible measure.
As elected officials, it is our sworn duty to protect the institutions of our democracy and ensure the American people and, in this instance, American voters, are adequately served by those institutions. Those of us who take that duty seriously do so because we understand that misinformation and false claims by those charged with protecting those institutions harm our democracy. That is a premise that should be respected by all of us – regardless of our party allegiance or political affiliation. The sanctity of our elections transcends all matters of party and politics. Sadly, that fundamental premise has been undermined and brought into doubt over the last few years.
Let me be clear – the elections of the City of Philadelphia have been proven to be reliable, accurate, and above reproach. Any suggestion otherwise is, plain and simple, a lie motivated by politics, self-interest, and delusion. Dangerous and often discriminatory political maneuvers are not new and are pretty familiar to Black voters.
During the Reconstruction Era, Black people fought for their freedom, citizenship, the ability to pursue equality, and the right to vote under the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Blacks in the South greatly outnumbered former slave owners.
Voting is a vehicle for justice and change, and the newly recognized citizens, Black people, registered and voted in massive numbers. Across the South, Black people also rose to elected office on campaign platforms calling for self-determination and equality.
In response, former slave owners created groups like the Ku Klux Klan and legislation-like poll taxes, literacy tests, and all-white primaries to intimidate and pressure Black people from voting and asserting their rights as citizens. It is estimated that a poll tax inflated to today’s numbers would be a month of the average person’s income.
Across the country, states are implementing restrictive voting laws designed to disenfranchise specific segments of the electorate – Black and Brown people. By making it more difficult for eligible voters to participate, we are already seeing the effects. Black voters came out and participated in large numbers in the November 2020 election. However, in our most recent election, we have seen the numbers drop drastically. The unfortunate reality is that Black voters continue to be challenged with photo ID requirements, state voter registration restrictions, and sophisticated social media disinformation campaigns.
The right to vote is a sacred and fundamental element of our democracy. Votes must be counted and respected, regardless of the outcome. All voters must have faith in the system, and frivolous lies do irreparable damage to that faith. As someone entrusted with administering these systems, I will fight with every ounce of my being to protect their integrity.
In the words of the late Hon. Congressman John R. Lewis, “The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It’s the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society, and we’ve got to use it.”
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