The second Democratic Debate of 2020 took place on Friday night and despite there no longer being any Black candidates to be a voice for Black people, issues that disproportionately affect the Black community were topics of discussion. Systematic racism as it pertains to voting was particularly mentioned by Minnesota Senator and former prosecutor Amy Klobuchar. Sen. Klobuchar spoke to voter suppression and the disenfranchisement of voters of color, but ironically had large hand in policies that drove mass incarceration during her time as chief prosector for Hennepin County, Minnesota which includes Minneapolis.
“There’s something else insidious going on we haven’t addressed, and that is the systemic racism when it comes to voting that moves across the country to limit people’s right to vote,” Klobuchar said. “That is why I have been leading on these bills to automatically register every kid to vote in this country when they turn 18. There is no reason we can’t do that across the country to stop the gerrymandering by setting up independent commissions in every state and yes, to stop the voting purges.”
Felons are among those mostly affected by voter suppression, which begs the question, is Klobuchar addressing this issue in an attempt to create a spike in her non-existent support from Black voters, which according to a recent Washington Post poll stands at zero percent?
Sen. Klobuchar’s unapologetic “tough on crime” prosecutorial record pushed for harsher prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, additionally allowing longer sentences for repeat offenders.
Sen. Klobuchar has said in the past that she bears no shame in her work as a former prosecutor. “First of all, I know my record back then. And we had a 12% reduction in African American prison incarceration in the years that I was in the office,” she said about her time as a prosecutor according to a report from The Huffington Post. “That was because I did emphasize drug court and I’ve been a leader of it in the U.S. Senate and led the efforts since [Sen.] Ted Kennedy died on the federal level.”
However, Vice News moderators at the Iowa 2020 Brown & Black Presidential Forum countered Klobuchar’s argument, noting that African Americans were “still imprisoned at 22 times the rate of white people,” according to the Huff Post.
One case in particular is Myon Burrell, the now 33-year-old who was sentenced to life in prison at age 16 for the shooting of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards. In a year-long investigation, the Associated Press has uncovered that Burrell, whom Klobuchar helped convict during her time as a District Attorney, was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in jail following a police investigation that allegedly consisted of no DNA evidence, no gun, and no fingerprints to connect him to the crime.
Criminal justice reformers took issue with Klobuchar’s aggressive policies suggesting that it not only fueled mass incarceration, but also the war on drugs, both of which as previously mentioned disproportionately affects Black people and ultimately their opportunity to vote.
While Klobuchar’s attempt to appeal to Black voters might have been earnest to some, it was disingenuous and agenda-driven, to others.