Brickner: Reports of people of color being turned away from polling stations are alarming
Brickner writes, "One key issue was not addressed by (election coordinator DeAnn) Buckhouse: Has she investigated whether or not the citizenship of any white voters have been flagged? How does a voter become a suspect?
Progress is a delicate thing. After years of enjoying rights, we can get lulled into complacency.
We see this with abortion and now we see it with voting rights: right here in Fargo.
In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the voting rights act to curb racial discrimination in voting. Prior to this act, even in mostly Black towns and counties, few Blacks could vote.
Now, I read about the Fargo voters apparently harassed during the voting primary. All that is required for voting here is identification that includes name, address, and date of birth. That’s all. Yet a number of “people of color” were denied.
As C.S. Hagen reports in The Forum, mayoral candidate Hukun Dabar, head of the Afro American Development Association, said he’s heard of multiple cases of voters told to prove their citizenship.
Wanley Bardell, from Pennsylvania, was told he needed to provide his passport. To retrieve the document, he was late for work.
Mohamed Ahmed, a recent high school graduate, was disappointed that a number of his friends were denied voting for being non-citizens. He says, “My feeling is that they’re trying to reject new voters and new American voters, and they came at you with a face that is not welcoming. No respect.”
Due to the number of complaints, election coordinator DeAnn Buckhouse came to West Acres Shopping Center to monitor the polls. Although this act is commendable, her response is not satisfactory. She seems to place equal blame on polling workers and voters.
According to the article, “Most problems at the polls come from voters not updating their address information with the North Dakota Department of Transportation.” She said if citizenship is in doubt, voters can fill out a ballot and confirm citizenship later.
Perhaps she’s right: Voters make mistakes, but how does this explain the situation of local teacher Sewit Eskinder, a Fargo resident of five years, from the Twin Cities?
She first tried voting at the Fargodome where her REAL ID was rejected. In a TikTok Video, she said, “I got really upset. I took my ID and left. I went to a second polling office and did the same thing and this time I recorded it….
I am a black woman. I am a U.S. citizen, and more importantly for the context of this video I am a resident of Fargo, North Dakota.”
Eskinder adds, “There is voter discrimination happening in Fargo, North Dakota to fellow people of color. If you are being asked to show your passport or any other identification, call your local representatives. That is not OK. All you need is an ID that shows your address.”
One key issue was not addressed by Buckhouse: Has she investigated whether or not the citizenship of any white voters have been flagged? How does a voter become a suspect?
Dabar, Eskinder and Ahmed alerted the public to the apparent bias in the voting booth. Ahmed, at just 18, is volunteering to drive new Americans to the polls and help them.
Voting is the single most important mark of democracy. Some – like James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman – died, brutally, for people to vote. Let us honor them, by investigating and crushing any possible discrimination.
Interested in a broad range of issues, including social and faith issues, Brickner serves as a regular contributor to the Forum’s opinion page. She is a retired English instructor, having taught in Michigan and Minnesota.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.