What’s Worse than Voter Suppression? How About No Elections, Just Pass the Office on to Friends and Family

A Tiny Alabama town is a blast from an evil, ignorant, and hateful past. A federal lawsuit is attempting to clean it up.

What’s Worse than Voter Suppression? How About No Elections, Just Pass the Office on to Friends and Family
Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash

Voter suppression has been the tool of choice in targeting Black voters and other marginalized groups to dilute or remove those voices in our election process. A signature of mostly southern states for several decades, voter suppression has been dressed up in thinly veiled disguises that we’re all supposed to be too stupid to see. This history of despicable and illegal tactics has ranged from the poll tax or the pay-to-vote scheme, literary tests for Black people-only, whites-only primaries, and the newer approaches of closing polling places in targeted areas, cutbacks to early voting, and purging the polls (of voters you don’t like).

What’s come to light recently is that in Newbern, Alabama, a town of fewer than 250 residents, 80% Black, there has been a stronghold of political power by a minority of White people who’ve held public offices for decades, passing the offices on to each other without elections. One mayor remained in office for 44 years. Why has this made the national radar now? (Cue the banjos). Because a Black man who was elected mayor has been locked out of the town hall and unable to claim his elected office. Firefighter Patrick Braxton is suing the former mayor and his coven for preventing him from taking office, and for conjuring up a second, illegal election to remain in office.

Braxton told reporters that he’s been followed by drones, harassed and his life threatened as well as the lives of those who support him; handwritten notes with swastikas, racial slurs and a drawing of Braxton and his supporter from a non-profit being lynched. One supporter suspects that her house which was leveled by fire was connected to these threats.

Braxton was elected mayor in November of 2020. According to his federal Civil Rights lawsuit, officials from the town’s white minority conspired to hold a special election to prevent him from taking office. In the lawsuit, Braxton says that former mayor Woodburn Stokes also conspired with others to hide the date he needed to file his paperwork to run for mayor. Braxton’s lawsuit asserts that despite those tactics, he was the only person who submitted paperwork to run for mayor by the actual July 16 of 2020 deadline. Stokes filed his on July 18, 2020, two days after the deadline.

The suit mentions the secret meeting which resulted in a “new” election and a change to the filing date. The former Mayor Stokes and his council members reappointed themselves to their positions following that secret, special election.

It was no surprise to read that during the Stokes administration, Newbern reportedly received $30,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act, but the funds and how they were used is as secret as is that alleged new election meeting. While there are no confirmations, history has shown us that racism and corruption go together like a horse and carriage.

Unfortunately, after the November 2020 elections, Braxton reached out to both White and Black citizens to serve in his administration but no White person accepted. He is joined in the federal lawsuit by those who would’ve been his appointees had he been able to take office.

Photo by Edmond Dantès

Everything old is new again

A town smaller than most subdivisions is a symbol of the worst of America, hatred to the point of criminal acts, and corruption for the sake of power by people erroneously claiming their superiority based on the amount of melanin in their skin. It’s all too wicked and disgusting to fathom, but it’s worthy of our attention because we have to recognize this brand of criminality.

Take the actions of those who’ve been controlling this little shit hole of a town and magnify them. Think of the January 6th Insurrection. Think of Trump and his fake electors and violent supporters. Think of Texas Governor Greg Abbott and his cruelty to humans who don’t look like he does. Think of his attacks on Houston and voter suppression moves. Ron DeSantis is another player in this cast of inhuman, hateful liars and cheats.

But let’s remember this: on a grand scale, most people today are not them. The platforms for the worst among us have grown louder and appear larger than they are - like objects in a car’s rearview mirror. It is difficult to hear about these acts of injustice and inhumanity without developing blood-boiling anger. Before giving in to the resentment and the hopes that some monster-craving being would come to earth, attack, and swallow all the bigots—we have to step back and acknowledge the better parts of our nation’s history. This country remains one of the earth’s greatest experiments of people from an ancestry kaleidoscope living amongst each other. This is where Black people and women won the right to vote after long battles. This is also a country that managed to pass child labor, family leave, and fair housing laws.

It’s disheartening that for each accomplishment, opposing forces creep up with their greedy, power-hungry twisted minds to turn back time on our achievements. But personally, I'd rather shelve my anger and join those who work at all levels to expose shady and illegal acts. Our country may take way too long to correct its wrongs, but for the most part, we get there and manage to clean it up. It’s kinda like the position behind the elephants in a parade.

Myra Jolivet is a storyteller. First a TV news anchor and reporter. Then came PR work and consulting. That's where she is today - banging her head against the wall - trying to help CEOs and political candidates tell their stories well. Myra writes a series of murder mysteries She was a kid with an imaginary friend. That says it all.