Voter literacy tests were a bad idea in the 1960s. Today's bad idea: voter ID laws.

In 2013, North Carolina legislators tried to make some major changes to the state's voting laws, many of which would affect the voting rights of black Americans.

Legislators argued that the new laws — which included changes to ID requirements, early voting practices, and same-day voter registration — were put forward to prevent voter fraud.

A federal appeals court struck them down in the summer of 2016 and actually said the laws were "as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times. [...] We can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent."


Photo by Sarah D. Davis/Stringer/Getty Images.

You might be thinking, "Well, what's wrong with having to show ID at the polls?" To answer that, we'll have to look back 50 years, to the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Before the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, black Americans were technically allowed to vote. But they had to jump through plenty of hoops to actually get to the voting booth.

Even when they did make it to the polls, some states still required them to prove their "good character." That usually meant showing an ID and proving a basic level of education, literacy, and civic knowledge. (And also that they weren't common-law married and didn't have an "illegitimate" child. Ugh.)

As you can probably imagine, this was easier said than done. Take a look for yourself.

Here's a sample of a test given to black voters in 1960s Mississippi:

Image from the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University.

It reads:

Write and copy in the space below: Section [blank] of the Constitution of Mississippi: (Instruction to Registrar: You will designate the section of the Constitution and point out same to applicant.)

Write in the space below a reasonable interpretation (the meaning) of the section of the Constitution of Mississippi which you have just copied:

Write in the space below a statement setting forth your understanding of the duties and obligations of citizenship under a constitutional form of government.



In Louisiana, black voters only had to get 4 of 6 questions correct on a civic literacy exam cards like this — if they were lucky.

Image from Civil Rights Movement Veterans organization.

This one says:

1. The Congress cannot regulate commerce (a) between States; (b) with other countries; or (c) within a state.

2. The general plan of a State government is given (a) in the Constitution of the United States; (b) in the laws of the Congress; or (c) in its own State constitution.

3. The name of our first President was (a) John Adams; (b) George Washington; or (c) Alexander Hamilton.

4. The President gets his authority to carry out laws (a) from the Declaration of Independence; (b) from the Constitution; or (c) from the Congress.

5. Our towns and cities have delegated authority which they get from the (a) State; (b) Congress; or (c) President.

6. A citizen who desires to vote on election day must, before that date, go before the election offers and (a) register; (b) pay all of his bills; or (c) have his picture taken.









These don't seem so tricky — again, if you've had an education and can still remember what Ms. Lupi said in eighth grade. But even then, I still got tripped up on two of them.

But a few very unlucky black voters had to complete a crazy-complicated 30-question riddle game in 10 minutes flat.

There's not much information about what circumstances justified this crazy trap beyond a generalized "racism," and it was certainly rare — but wow, is it ridiculous. Here's a sampling:

Image from Civil Rights Movement Veterans organization.

Those instructions read:

10. In the first circle below write the last letter of the first word beginning with "L."

11. Cross out the number necessary, when making the number below one million.

12. Draw a line from circle 2 to circle 5 that will pass below circle 2 and above circle 4.



Black voters had 10 minutes to answer 30 questions like this. Which meant that, unless you possessed some sort of acrobatic brain powers, you probably weren't going to be able to vote that year.

Of course, if you did fail whatever test you were given, the registrar (who was definitely white) could still approve of your right to vote. If they wanted to.

Photo by Davis Turner/Getty Images.

If these tests seem absurd, it's because they are. But they're not so different from the laws in North Carolina that were just struck down.

Requiring voters to present a photo ID from the DMV might not sound ridiculous on the surface. But when that just so happens to be the specific ID that's owned by a disproportionate minority of blacks in North Carolina? Something's up. (ID laws in general tend to affect minorities the most.)

The same thing happened when the state tried to abolish voting on Sundays as black communities are the ones who tend to take advantage of early voting on a Sunday. And again when North Carolina tried to shorten the early voting period from 17 days to 10 days when black citizens were significantly more likely to vote in those first seven days.

But it's not about early voting or Sundays or photo IDs. Just like it was never about literacy.

Photo by Sara D. Davis/Stringer/Getty Images.

Voter fraud is still an issue though, especially in a presidential election. But not in the way that some people think it is.

In one study of elections since 2000 — the year of the highly contended Bush-Gore election — a Loyola Law School professor found about 31 cases of individuals committing voter fraud at the polls out of more than a billion ballots cast. Another look by the Justice Department identified 86 cases between 2000 and 2005, which is still a pretty small number.

And yet, this election year, more than 30 states will require photo IDs for voters, allegedly to cut down on acts of fraud.

Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images.

Elections aren't rigged by a few sneaky individuals casting double ballots or lying about their names; it happens when the people in power tamper with technology or manipulate turnouts with the help of things like ID laws and gerrymandering that impede individuals from exercising their democratic rights.

A democracy only works when everyone has a voice — regardless of race, gender, beliefs, education, or even possession of a photo ID.

So instead of trying to fight a nonexistent issue like voter fraud, maybe we should focus our energies on educating people about the choices they're making and finding easier ways to get them to the polls.

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Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

Courtesy of CeraVe
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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