“Some Have a Choice, Some Don’t”

“Some Have a Choice, Some Don’t” (1960s)
by Eddie Germano (1924 – )
11 x 15 in., ink and wash on board
Coppola Collection

A native Bostonian, Germano became a full-time cartoonist in 1948, at age 24, after serving in WWII. Among other positions, he worked as the editorial and sports cartoonist for the Brockton Enterprisefrom 1963-1990.

The cartoon is clearly an anti-communist social commentary on the right to vote from the 1960s.

A 1945 decree allowed for members of the Red Army stationed outside the Soviet Union to vote in special 100,000-member districts. Voting was theoretically secret and direct with universal suffrage. However, in practice, until 1989 voters could only vote against the Communist Party candidate by using polling booths, whereas votes for the party could be cast simply by submitting a blank ballot. Gorbachev was elected in the first (and only) open (err… more open) election in the USSR before the break-up.

The cartoon is also a good time to remind Americans that its righteous propaganda was not extended as an equal opportunity for all US Citizens. Although the 15th Amendment was almost a hundred years old, and prohibited states from denying a male citizen the right to vote based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude,” various discriminatory practices were used to prevent African Americans, particularly those in the South, from exercising their right to vote. Typical voter turnout for African Americans at this time was less than 10% in many areas.

In 1964, the 24th Amendment made poll taxes illegal in federal elections.

One event that outraged many Americans occurred on March 7, 1965, when peaceful participants in a Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights were met by Alabama state troopers who attacked them with nightsticks, tear gas and whips after they refused to turn back. In the wake of this incident, Johnson called for comprehensive voting rights legislation. In a speech to a joint session of Congress on March 15, 1965, the president outlined the devious ways in which election officials denied African-American citizens the vote including literacy tests and the voting officials, primarily in Southern states, who had been known to force black voters to “recite the entire Constitution or explain the most complex provisions of state laws,” a task most white voters would have been hard pressed to accomplish.

The voting rights bill was passed in the U.S. Senate on May 26, 1965 (the vote was 77-19). And after debating the bill for more than a month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 333-85 on July 9. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965.

Voter turnout did, in fact, improve. Yet, sate and local enforcement of the law was weak, and it often was ignored outright, mainly in the South and in areas where the proportion of blacks in the population was high and their vote threatened the political status quo.

“Some Have a Choice, Some Don’t”… indeed.

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