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This election, Black voters turned out to the polls at historic levels — and may be the single biggest reason that Joe Biden won the presidency.

In Wayne County, Michigan, which is nearly 39% Black, Biden picked up more than 77,000 votes than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. In Georgia, which flipped from red to blue for the first time since 1992 — Biden secured over 84,000 more votes than Clinton in Fulton County, which is nearly half Black.

But in his last-ditch push to steal the election, President Trump has attempted to disqualify these legitimate votes — adding yet another racist layer to an election structure that purposely minimizes the power of Black people.

Trump’s effort started months ago, and has followed a sadly predictable playbook: suppress the Black vote before the election, disqualify the Black vote afterwards. Thus far, the administration has filed more than 50 lawsuits to reject legally cast ballots — and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Black voters. The most expansive effort came this month, when the Attorneys General of 17 states backed a Texas lawsuit claiming voter fraud in cities that are heavily Black, like Philadelphia, Detroit, and Milwaukee. Fortunately, the Supreme Court rejected this overtly racist ploy.

This systemic assault on Black voters has gone on too long, and it needs to end before it does irreparable harm to our democratic system.

Across the nation, policymakers in many places have enacted structures that suppress the Black vote. Today, Black people are often subject to longer poll lines than white people, sometimes waiting hours to cast ballots — largely because heavily-Black communities have disproportionately fewer polling places. Additionally, many areas require a state ID to vote, which people of color are less likely to have. The criminal justice system also prevents many Black people from voting: One in every 16 Black Americans of voting age nationwide cannot vote due to a felony conviction, a rate nearly four times higher than that of the non-Black population, according to The Sentencing Project.

Then there’s the electoral college, which was conceived to give outsized power to the slaveholding southern states. The present-day manifestation is that voters of color have disproportionately less power than white voters in presidential elections, according to extensive

But even all of these hurdles weren’t enough to secure a Trump win. So the president and his GOP allies — including leaders in my home state of Mississippi — have been sowing doubt about the election results on social media, in press conferences and beyond. And it doesn’t stop there: they sought to simply toss out millions of ballots in what would have been the greatest mass disqualification of legally cast votes in American history.

In Georgia, for example, President Trump has unleashed a slew of attacks on Governor Brian Kemp — who ironically has faced heavy scrutiny for efforts to disenfranchise Black voters when he was Secretary of State of Georgia — and called on him to disqualify election results. Georgia officials are now receiving death threats from the president’s most fervent followers. Local officials in Milwaukee, Detroit, and Philadelphia — all of which are heavily Black — have to constantly defend themselves against unfounded allegations of voter fraud and corruption.

It’s hard to say we live in a democracy when Black voter suppression pervades every level of our electoral system. Every time obstacles are torn down, from poll taxes to literacy tests, more pop up in its place, from ID laws to long voting lines. Now, the Trump administration is trying an even more alarming tactic — throwing out the votes in areas with significant Black populations entirely.

This must stop. All voters should have equal access to the polls and should never have to overcome massive hurdles to cast a ballot. That means nixing voter ID laws, ensuring there are enough voting locations for all communities, not purging voting rolls and expanding opportunities to vote-by-mail. And no person should lose their right to vote due to a felony conviction.

Unfortunately, there are already indications that some states will go in the opposite direction. Republicans in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, have announced investigations into the 2020 elections. Republicans in Georgia are aiming to pass legislation that would require photo ID for mail-in ballots in the future.

This year, Black organizers worked tirelessly to propel turnout to historic levels. We can’t allow Trump to steal the election by denying them their voice — or allow his fellow Republicans to set the stage for even greater voter suppression in the future.


Vangela M. Wade is president and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice, a nonprofit, public interest law firm committed to advancing racial and economic justice.