• Introduction
  • Historical aspect
  • Modern Impact

Historical aspect

Until the year 1868, only white males had the right to vote. 

When the Civil War was over, a number of legal impediments that impeded the procedure of voting for African Americans became fewer, and from 1868 to 1896 nearly 45 percent of African-American citizens became the state’s registered voters. One of the most significant innovations was the 15th amendment enacted in 1870 and prohibited from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude".  
In 1898, Louisiana was the first to use the infamous Grandfather Clause, which implied having complicated education and specific fortune requirements on registrants whose ancestors had not been registered to vote before January 1, 1867.  Therefore, African-American voter registration was decreased to 4% of total registration percentage by the end of 1898. This Grandfather Clause was repealed on 1915 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
During following few decades, Louisiana’s government tried to abridge the rights of African Americans  to vote and to consolidate their success of previous years, when Black citizens had almost no political influence, so Louisiana was “unremitting and ingenious” in its methods. It claimed to “give a reasonable interpretation of any section of the federal or state constitution in order to vote”, levied poll taxes and authorized an all-white Democratic primary to deny blacks access to the determinative elections.
In the 1950s, Louisiana decided to ban a single-shot voting along with developing citizenship tests so that not to leave a chance allowing the minority community to collect the votes in support of one candidate when a number of members are elected. All the while, from 1940 to 1964, the States Rights Party established and headed an aggressive movement for black disenfranchisement and judicially-directed segregation. All these historical events resulted in that the percentage of voting age African Americans who had a possibility to register to vote was less than 1% from 1910 until 1948.

Although, from that very year the proportion increased significantly: in 1948 it rose to five percent, and afterwards to 1964 the proportion reached 32 percent.

Thus, it was a long way full of disregard of the constitutional obligations to give the right to vote to all the citizens of the state regardless of race taken by Louisiana government and other states’ governors that led Congress to impose the remedies and protections embodied in the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The relevant sections are the Section 2 containing a prohibition on voting discrimination and the Section 5 amended in 1982 by the Congress. Section 5 included the preclearance to ensure the absence of discriminatory changes in every element of Louisiana voting.

 To sum up, 95 years passed since the 1870 when the 15th amendment was enacted till the moment when African Americans, particularly Blacks of Louisiana, gained the real right to vote and have a serious impact on the politics of their state and the whole country. 

Modern impact

Louisiana historically has supported Republican Party except fot the first half of the XX century being a state dependent on favorable environment for business. It is accounted for the population of ethnic minorities, such as African Americans, electing a democratic candidate compared to white citizens voting for Republicans in Louisiana. By 2011, African Americans were 1,510,994 in Louisiana while there were 4,574,836 of white residents. Therefore, 64% of white voters form the absolute majority over 31% of African Americans and it is no wonder that the Republican Party gaining the support of white voters defeats the Democratic Party.

Nevertheless, talking about modern political impact it can be said that African Americans form the main supporting force of the Democratic Party in Louisiana due to their income, standard of living, occupation and dependence on social programs. For example, in 2008 African Americans voted for Obama over McCain by a margin of 94%-4% when “Louisiana voted for Republican John McCain over Democrat Barack Obama by a margin of 84%-14%”.

It is a huge gap that the Republicans have to bridge to collect the votes of African Americans. They do not have an opportunity to change their political program drastically and, for example, provide more social programs; otherwise they lose the votes of wealthy Americans forming the basis of their voters. But they may undertake this challenge and cope with it in another manner.

When the Presidential elections of 2008 took place, this event became was revolutionary as African American became the President of the US for the first time. The African Americans woke up “Tuesday morning with a big - big wonderful butterfly feeling." They voted not only for a Democratic Party, but for a black man to believe that everything is possible if a person of African American origin can be the President. An African American teacher even claimed that “If a Black man can become President in the same country that wouldn't even allow him to drink from a "white's only" water fountain 50 yrs ago, then who am I to tell a little child that something can't happen?"

The whole thing is that Republicans should nominate a person of minority ethnics origin. For instance, in 2007 the first Indian-American Bobby Jindal became the governor of Louisiana representing the Republican Party. He ran on an ethnics reform platform essential for Louisiana.Jindal picked up nine percent of Black New Orleans, just four points higher than the GOP norm”. 

The great problem of Louisiana’s African American voters is being underrepresented in the legislature. To prove this statement it can be mentioned that African Americans compose 31.9% of Louisiana's population, but only 18.1% of the members of the state legislature are black.

To deal with this issue the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus was established in 1977 and the number of African American legislators that was more insufficient than that of nowadays began to grow tremendously. Beyond this, “the LLBC has made other major accomplishments, which include:
  • Expanding voting rights
  • Enhancing historically Black colleges and universities
  • Recasting employment opportunities in the work place
  • Eliminating Jim Crow laws
  • Increasing minority business opportunities
  • Fighting against apartheid in South Africa
  • Helping Louisiana's indigent families through expanding educational and economic opportunities and access to adequate healthcare
  •  Developing drug rehabilitation programs
  • Proposing laws with tougher penalties to fight the increasing crime rate
  • Assisting African-American Louisiana farmers and landowners
  •  Fighting against abolishing affirmative action and minority set-asides
  • Opposing the elimination of one of Louisiana's two majority African-American congressional districts
  • Opposing the unfair mandate that requires only public high school students to pass an exit exam as a prerequisite to being awarded a diploma”

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