Sometimes history repeats itself for all the wrong reasons.
In a newsreel released by the National Archives, polling places in Alabama in 1966 were notably "swamped" by record breaking African-American and white voter turnout. Wait times were as long as four hours. Lines stretched at least three city blocks.
At the time, it was news that voting was inconvenient. But the burden was a sign of progress.
Despite having the constitutional right to vote, African Americans in Southern states like Alabama faced insidious Jim Crow-era policies like poll taxes and literacy tests that were damn near impossible to pass. Just a year before, civil rights activists of the time were brutally beaten by Alabama state troopers for attempting to March from Selma to Montgomery for that right.
But thanks to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, many black voters in Alabama and elsewhere were voting for the first time.
Yet 50 years after African Americans waited hours to cast a ballot for the first time, a new generation of voters find themselves doing the same thing because of systemic efforts to make voting as onerous as possible.
Since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, states across the country have passed a slew of voter ID laws to the fix nonexistent voter fraud that dubiously suppresses voters of color. Additionally, states like Ohio and North Carolina also significantly cut early voting opportunities — the latter state specifically to quell African-American turnout.
"Look, if African Americans voted overwhelmingly Republican, they would have kept early voting right where it was," Carter Wrenn, a Republican consultant and key player in North Carolina politics, told the Washington Post. "It wasn’t about discriminating against African Americans. They just ended up in the middle of it because they vote Democrat."
The result: reports of at least 4,000 people waiting in line in Cincinnati on the Sunday before Election Day; Latino voters waiting at least two hours to cast their ballot in Nevada; lower African-American voter turnout in North Carolina; and North Carolina college students circling their campus just to vote, with little more reprieve than the promise of free pizza.
In 1966, long lines and wait times were a sign that racial barriers to the ballot box were finally dissolving after disenfranchising an entire population for nearly a century. Fifty years later, these same lines reflect a concerted effort to take those same voting rights away.