Jimmy’s Denver Gazette Column | Colorado’s MLB win is America’s loss

Written by on April 9, 2021

When Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that Coors Field will host this year’s All-Star Game, Coloradans celebrated. Come mid-July and for the first time since 1998, we will be home plate for an annual extravaganza that excites baseball fans everywhere — giving Denver the attention Gov. Jared Polis and Mayor Michael Hancock seek. It will bring great economic benefits to our state and be a re energizing shot in the collective arm of many Coloradans long beleaguered by the pandemic.

Sure, this is an exciting win for Colorado — Polis and Hancock pursued an exhilarating opportunity — but it’s actually a loss for America. That’s not because our state scored an all-star victory; it’s because of how we even got the chance in the first place.

This year’s game was originally set for Atlanta. Then, on March 25, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a new election bill into law. As if on cue, President Biden and other prominent Democrats called a foul ball. In his first-ever press conference, Biden even went so far as to say the law “makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle.”

Later, when ESPN asked for his thoughts about MLB possibly moving the game from Atlanta, the president answered, “I would strongly support them doing that. People look to them. They’re leaders.” Two days later, the league pulled the game from Georgia. One could call this leadership — but it’s not.

Undoubtedly, the history of genuinely un-American Jim Crow laws is utterly sordid. Poll taxes and literacy tests were unjustly mandated in many states, preventing many poor or illiterate Americans from participating in elections. The disenfranchised were disproportionately black — by design.

One Georgia man in the 1930s, Mr. Trout, reflected, “Do you know I’ve never voted in my life, never been able to exercise my right as a citizen because of the poll tax? … I can’t pay a poll tax, can’t have a voice in my own government.” Here was a black man — in Georgia, no less — lamenting about how his right to vote had been outright denied because of oppressive Jim Crow laws. Mr. Trout wasn’t alone.

The Library of Congress notes that, prior to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, “only an estimated twenty-three percent of voting-age blacks were registered nationally.” The VRA banned literacy tests and empowered the federal government to enforce new voting protections. The year before, the 24th Amendment made poll taxes in federal elections illegal. But, the LOC says, “by 1969 the number had jumped to sixty-one percent.” Thus, eliminating Jim Crow election laws meant an additional 38% of voting-age black Americans registered to vote within five years.

Today, no Georgian is at risk of being denied the right to vote due to poll taxes or poll tests. How does Georgia’s “pernicious” new law square up against Jim Crow’s injustice, then? Quite well, actually.

Contrary to rampant misinformation, Sunday voting remains, meaning black churches can continue bringing “souls to the polls.” The state extended weekend early voting and offers three full weeks, longer than many other states. While early voting must be available daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., counties can open a window of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Election Day, they must allow voting until 7 p.m. Making access even easier and unlike in more than a dozen states, no-excuse absentee voting by mail remains permitted for any eligible voter. (Colorado did this long before we switched to universal mail balloting.)

No voters waiting in line will stay thirsty, either: Whereas campaigns and third-party political groups are barred from providing food and drink in voting lines (consistent with bans on electioneering at polling stations), poll workers may offer “self-service water from an unattended receptacle.” Ballot drop boxes — loved by Coloradans — are now mandated by law, while requiring important security precautions akin to ours. This wasn’t the case prior to the pandemic.

The one significant change Georgia made concerns voter ID requirements. The legislature abandoned signature verification (which Colorado does) and will instead match a voter’s unique state ID number. Already in Georgia, in-person voters must show ID, with several forms of ID allowed. This merely expands an existing ID requirement to mail ballots and changes the method of voter verification!

To be clear: In Georgia, no-excuse mail ballots are still legal. The time window for early voting is longer. Voter ID requirements are now the same for mail ballots as in-person. Drop boxes are required, giving voters more places to drop off ballots. Where’s this “Jim Crow 2.0,” exactly?

These days, we are frequently reminded to fact-check everything. Unfortunately, it appears the MLB neglected that before making a decision that smacks of virtue signaling amidst a racially sensitive moment.

When America’s pastime is plagued by politics – when its major league singles out a state for punishment under false pretenses – we all lose. No matter how cool it is for Colorado, this is a loss for America.

Click here to read the rest of Jimmy’s April 9 column at The Denver Gazette, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.


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