2020年10月16日 星期五

Long Lines are the New Poll Taxes

They're the same thing.
Author Headshot

By Jamelle Bouie

Opinion Columnist

Let’s talk about poll taxes.

We tend to think of them as the relic of a more unjust time, an artifact of the Jim Crow South. For good reason. We banned them in 1964 with the 24th Amendment to the Constitution. And it is true that the poll taxes of the past — a fee levied directly on potential voters — are dead and gone. But if you think of the poll tax in the abstract, as any policy meant to exact an economic cost on would-be voters, then it is absolutely clear we still have poll taxes, ones more expensive and potentially costly than anything in the Jim Crow era.

The voters who stood in quarter-mile-long lines to cast a ballot in Ohio this week paid poll taxes. So did the voters who braved three-hour-long waits in Texas and 11-hour lines in Georgia. If you have to devote hours of your life to casting a ballot, you have paid a poll tax. That’s not just because time is irreplaceable, but in a market society like ours, time is literally money. For most workers, time spent in line is money in the form of lost wages and labor hours. For low-income workers in particular, long lines may prove so economically ruinous that they may not vote at all. Given the uneven distribution of long lines, this is the point.

Voters in affluent precincts don’t face long lines. White voters don’t tend to face long lines. Long lines for voting are most common in areas where Black Americans and Hispanics make up a majority of voters, and they are generated by concrete policy decisions: cuts to voting resources in the form of fewer polling stations, poll workers and voting machines.

The culprits, as has often been the case in decisions that limit access to the ballot, are Republican lawmakers and officials who have made the reduction of voting resources a deliberate strategy for shrinking the size of the electorate. In Georgia, for example, the Republican former secretary of state (and current governor) Brian Kemp closed 214 polling stations between 2012 and 2018, often in rural, high-poverty areas with significant Black populations. In Texas, as well, Republicans have fought to reduce options for early voting, contributing to long waits this past week.

When you see long lines for voting, Americans devoting entire days to exercising their right to suffrage, you should remember that these lines are a choice meant to burden our ability to choose our leaders. You should be angry.


What I Wrote

For my Tuesday column, I unpacked the Republican argument for the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court, noting how it doubles as an argument for expanding the court if Democrats win the White House and the Senate.

The same Constitution that says Republicans can confirm Barrett weeks before the election, that allows them to retroactively impose a new and novel partisan requirement (same-party control of the Senate) on judicial confirmations, also says Congress can add as many seats to the Supreme Court as it wishes. It says Congress can strip the Supreme Court of its jurisdiction to hear certain kinds of cases. It says the judiciary is as subject to “checks and balances” as any other institution in American government and that the people through their elected officials have the right to discipline a court that works against their will.

For my Friday column, I argued for treating the Constitution post-Civil War as a fundamentally different document than the Constitution that was written in 1787.

Whereas the Constitution of 1787 established a white republic in which the right to property meant the right to total domination of other human beings, the Reconstruction Constitution established a biracial democracy that made the federal government what Charles Sumner called the “custodian of freedom” and a caretaker of equal rights. To that end, the framers of this “second founding” — men like Thaddeus Stevens, Lyman Trumbull and John Bingham — understood these new amendments as expansive and revolutionary.

I also did a live chat on Twitter and was part of a round table on the election and progressive politics for the New York Public Library and The New York Review of Books. Oh! And I was part of a discussion on citizenship with the Virginia Quarterly Review and one on voting with Harper’s Magazine.

Now Reading

Marlene L. Daut on the Haitian Revolution in Lapham’s Quarterly.

Hakeem Jefferson on the complex politics of Black Americans in FiveThirtyEight.

Tressie McMillan Cottom on racial inequality in Dissent magazine.

Olga Khazan on the “anti-vaxxer” mentality in The Atlantic.

Soraya Nadia McDonald on Regina King for Glamour magazine.



If you’re enjoying what you’re reading, please consider recommending it to friends. They can sign up here. If you want to share your thoughts on an item in this week’s newsletter or on the newsletter in general, please email me at jamelle-newsletter@nytimes.com.

Photo of the Week

I was working in my kitchen this week when I noticed a snail crawling on my porch. Decided to use that as an opportunity to take a photograph break and attempt to capture it using a macro lens.


Now Eating: Pumpkin Bread

I made this for my toddler, who has a small slice for breakfast every morning with a little peanut butter. I reduced the sugar in the recipe (which comes from The New York Times Cooking section) from a total of a cup and three quarters to a cup and a third. In the future, I may substitute the sugar entirely with honey, which will require other adjustments. I’ll let you know how it works out.


  • ½ cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup full-fat sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil an 8½- or 9-inch loaf pan; line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. In a large bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, sour cream and vanilla.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until fully combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer.

Bake until the loaf is puffed and set, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 60 to 75 minutes. Transfer the bread, in the pan, to a rack to cool for 20 minutes. Use a paring knife to cut the two exposed sides of bread away from the pan, then use the parchment to transfer the cake to the rack. Let cool completely.


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On Tech: Brace for holiday ‘shipageddon’

The pandemic and the holidays will make shipping a zoo. Shoppers, listen up.

Brace for holiday ‘shipageddon’

Loïc Schwaller

Online shopping has exploded during the pandemic. The holidays are approaching. What happens when these two forces collide?

The combination of our reliance on online shopping during a pandemic and our eagerness for online shopping during the holidays has made some e-commerce experts predict a “shipageddon” in the United States — delays and chaos as parcel companies already stretched thin also tackle a surge in holiday packages.

Retailers are sweating over how they’re going to move merchandise among their stores and handle extra expenses to deliver orders. And people who rely on home delivery might need to plan ahead for possible bottlenecks.

The potential for hiccups shows the complications when our zeal for shopping from home meets the physical limits of humans, warehouses stuffed to the rafters, roadways and ocean freight shipping. There’s always been a war to get stuff to our door. It’s just been one we usually ignore.

The problem is simple: Many of our buying habits completely changed in the pandemic, and our delivery networks cannot keep up. You might already have encountered this with weekslong delays on some Amazon orders or waking up at 4 a.m. to get an open slot from a grocery delivery company.


Parcel companies like FedEx and UPS already struggle to handle extra orders each holiday season, and they’re expecting Christmas 2020 to stretch them to the limits. To try to discourage deliveries they can’t handle, the delivery companies have announced larger-than-usual additional fees for larger retailers during the holiday.

The practical tips for people planning their holiday shopping: If you’re that person who waits until the last minute … don’t. Really.

If you’re buying online or sending holiday gifts to loved ones by mail, it might take far longer than it has in previous years. The Postal Service is almost pleading with people to mail Christmas gifts early. (And if you rely on e-commerce sites for diapers or other household essentials, it’s probably not a bad idea to build a buffer ahead of potential end-of-year shipping delays.)

Jason Goldberg, the chief commerce strategy officer at the advertising giant Publicis who goes by the nickname “Retail Geek,” also said that retailers have less merchandise stocked up than usual for the holidays because the pandemic disrupted their typical inventory planning.


That means you’re not likely to get cut-rate prices on Black Friday or the week before Christmas, because stores won’t discount merchandise that’s already in short supply. If there is a particular gift that you have your heart set on, it might not be there if you wait.

People may also want to consider alternatives to home delivery around the holidays. Ordering online for curbside pickup at stores, for example, skips strained delivery systems. Retailers are also trying alternative delivery options, including sending orders from local stores via couriers working for companies like Instacart and Shipt.

Scot Wingo, co-founder of ChannelAdvisor, which helps businesses sell online, said companies like Target that both have physical stores and ship a lot of home deliveries from their stores don’t rely as much on overwhelmed parcel companies. “That gives them an escape valve for shipageddon,” he said.

One silver lining in the potential holiday shopping drama is that it makes the invisible more visible. Just as the pandemic has made me appreciate the work of grocery clerks, health care workers, bus drivers, restaurant staffers and other sometimes overlooked people, it has also made plain the complexities of our shopping lives.


Those mouse clicks on Amazon or Target have always set in motion a chaotic ballet of warehouse workers, truck drivers, parcel delivery couriers and more, but we mostly didn’t think about it. The shipping delays this year might reveal the strains at the seams, but they’ve always been there.

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Ransomware is not your fault

After last week’s newsletter about “ransomware” attacks, in which criminals freeze organizations’ computer systems and demand a payment to unlock them, a number of readers asked about ways to prevent these hacks.

Ken Gruberman in Altadena, Calif., told us an orthopedics practice he used was locked out of its computer system for months because of a ransomware attack:

“The attack was enabled because a new employee clicked on a pop-up window which then allowed the thieves in … I learned that the IT staff at the practice never created simple guidelines for all employees on what to do when confronted with a bogus pop-up, message, web page or other anomaly.”

While I don’t know what happened at this practice, it’s true that ransomware attacks tend to start when someone in an organization clicks on an email attachment or web link that gives the criminals a route into the computer network.

But the security expert I spoke with, Charles Carmakal of FireEye Mandiant, said attacks should not be blamed on people who make a mistake. (Still, here are tips to avoid falling for hackers on your work account or your home computer.)

Just because criminals were able to trick their way into one person’s computer doesn’t mean they can take over the entire organization’s network. Hackers usually take days or weeks to get access to the right parts of an organization’s computer network for a ransomware attack, Carmakal said. That gives the organization many opportunities to spot and stop the criminals.

The key, Carmakal said, is for organizations to think and plan ahead for potential attacks and invest in technology that can help spot unusual computer activity. My colleague Brian X. Chen had useful advice for businesses in a 2017 column.

So, yes, Carmakal said, it’s important for workers to learn how to spot potential malicious emails or documents, but ransomware is never one person’s fault.

Before we go …

  • Facebook makes lots of rules. It’s harder to enforce them. Facebook acknowledged it erred when it didn’t delete a majority of the content flagged by The Wall Street Journal that violated the company’s guidelines against things like depicting violence and posting dangerous misinformation. Lots of people take issue with Facebook trying to limit online conversations — see this article from my colleagues — but the company also often fails to act quickly or make fine distinctions in deciding what material breaks its own rules.Related: The New York Times technology columnist Kevin Roose says that the blowback Facebook and Twitter are facing for limiting distribution of an unsubstantiated article about Joe Biden shows that “tech platforms have been controlling our information diets for years, whether we realized it or not.”
  • Here is something to make you feel guilty about your inbox: The best way to prevent overstuffed online email and document accounts that nag you to pay for more storage is to delete unwanted emails, photos, songs and digital files regularly, says a writer for Medium’s consumer technology publication. Here is how to do it. (Personally, I will wallow in my chaotic online file cabinets FOREVER.)
  • Have you seen the “How it started … How it’s going” meme? My colleague Sandra E. Garcia explains this internet phenomenon, which shows “the passage of time through oppositional bookends.” Also it is just dumb fun. This is my favorite version of the meme.

Hugs to this

Wilbur the pig can play soccer with his snout. Well, sort of.

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