Commentaries

May 22, 2012

We can’t let the attacks on voting rights succeed


By : Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Source: Weekly Column | Chicago Sun-Times

The story of American democracy has been the expansion of voting rights to more and more citizens. Yet now, conservatives linked to the Republican Party are systematically seeking to constrict the vote.

We can’t let them get away with this.

In the early republic, voting was often reserved for white male landowners. Over time, the vote was extended to working people, to women, to those 18 and older. The passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was one of the transformative victories of the civil rights movement. Progressive movements have pushed reforms to make voting easier — same-day voter registration, extended voting days and hours, voting by mail.

Now, however, across the country, we see a systematic effort to suppress the vote. Tactics include:

Voter ID laws: According to a study by the Brennan Center, more than a half-dozen Republican-dominated states have passed legislation requiring an official state photo ID to vote. This makes voting harder for those without a driver’s license: the poor, students, urban dwellers, seniors and minorities. Brennan estimates that 5 million people could be hit by the laws. In 30 states, legislators have received “voter fraud” legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council, the notorious right-wing network funded by the Koch brothers and others.

Voter purges: Ohio has purged some 1,100,000 voters from its rolls since 2010. Cuyahoga County, which includes Democratic-rich Cleveland, led with 267,071 voters removed from the rolls. Franklin County, including Ohio’s capital, Columbus, removed 93,578 voters. Those purged came disproportionately from counties with high minority populations. Similarly, in Florida, another key state, voter officials seem to gearing up an effort to purge the lists, with a focus on Latino voters.

Intimidating voter-registration groups: The majority of those signed up in registration drives tend to be low-income or minority voters likely to support Democratic candidates. So conservatives have moved legislation to threaten voter-registration groups. In Florida, a new law imposing harsh penalties for registration mistakes led the League of Women Voters to discontinue its program altogether.