When our nation began, only white male property holders could vote. Then the property qualification was removed by most states in the 1820’s. Following a horrible Civil War, in which human rights and human dignity were at the core of the struggle, we ended human slavery, made blacks citizens, and guaranteed all citizens of the nation equal treatment under the law and black men were specifically granted the vote. In 1920, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution by State of Tennessee, Women obtained the right to vote.
Between 1883 and 1905 nearly all the formerly registered and participating black male voters in the former slave states became disenfranchised. The statistics are stark: In 1870, over 750,000 black men voted in the South alone. By 1905, there were only five or six thousand black men that were even registered to vote, much less having the courage to go to the polls in the face of withering white harassment or even death.
America’s Civil Rights years brought the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 brought the elective franchise back to black men and women by the millions.
It can be said without qualification that the movement of the American democratic experiment since 1776 has been to enfranchise more and more of our adult, law-abiding citizenry.
This is part and parcel to the aim of our Constitution to “form a more perfect Union” and “provide for the general welfare” of our citizens. It is also morally right without qualification.
Now, a political party of overwhelmingly privileged and aging white male elephantine individuals, wants to ensure their permanent ascendancy by limiting millions of Americans right to vote, contrary to the intent and letter of the Constitution of the United States and related Federal statutes.
It is true that the States have the largest say about how to conduct elections but it is clear that restricting or discouraging vulnerable minorities from voting is openly contrary to U.S. Supreme Law and is unconstitutional. It mocks our entire democratic process. It exposes our nation to ridicule were we to point to the superiority of our electoral system and our larger democracy and republican form of government to other nations we judge to be inferior in that respect.
In Pennsylvania, a Republican state level election official assured his partisan audience this last summer that the Voter ID law was the key to a Romney victory in that state in November—and not the number of people who supported Romney and not the things the candidate and his party stood for in the election.
In Florida, the former Secretary of State, most responsible for executing Governor Rick Scott’s suppression of the vote in Florida, has told the West Palm Beach Post newspaper publicly that the entire purpose of the restriction on early voting and the hours absentee ballots could be filled out and collected was aimed like a laser beam at suppressing the number of votes cast by racial minorities, women, the young, and the elderly—all Democratic Party constituencies.
In Wisconsin, the Voter ID Law put in place by Scott Walker and a Republican dominated legislature was blocked by a judge who saw its obvious inability to pass Constitutional muster. In that state, the Attorney General’s Office made a multi-year, multi-million dollar investigation into finding the massive voter fraud that justified the legislation in the first place: out of tens of millions of votes cast in the last several statewide elections, only 23 cases were unearthed. And most of these were with no criminal intent.
In Ohio, the Secretary of State there continues to try to do everything possible to restrict voting to a selected number of citizens.
Now, Scott Walker tells us that the older women who conduct same-day voter registration at polling places as has been law in Wisconsin for decades—and is part of the fact that Wisconsin has a significantly higher level of citizen participation in elections than many states—will simply get too tired and worn out registering all those people who bring the legally required three documents that prove their home address is within Wisconsin and is lawfully assigned to the very polling place they are registering at.
It is still another self-evident truth of democracy that in Waukesha County, Wisconsin, the strongest of GOP strongholds in the entire State of Wisconsin, fully two thirds of voters vote Republican and support that party in polling. So it follows as the night follows the day and the sun rises each morning that roughly two of three people seen crowding the registration tables there are people who support the Scott Walkers of the world and his ilk and want to vote too. They would be among the voters discouraged from voting. They had not bothered to register until Election Day. How many would have just not bothered if same-day registration ended?
And if tired and overworked poll workers is the problem, hire and train and staff more polling places and not less with more poll workers to take up the increasing demand from unregistered but otherwise eligible voters under Wisconsin and Federal law who want to participate in our nation’s democracy.
Wider, unobstructed and easy access of American citizens to the right and actual practice of actually voting in elections is firmly and clearly in the national interest. It is vital to the success of the United States of America.
Struggles for Justice has pointed this out before: what if you asked surviving veterans who were among the men who assaulted Omaha Beach on 6 June 1944 to save the United States from Nazi tyranny, and protect the principles FDR had enunciated with his Four Freedoms Speech internationally about what they think?
While pure survival was fully occupying the minds of soldiers that cold, wet visit to the hell of warfare in Normandy in June of 1944, they would in unison tell you that obstructing U.S. citizens from exercising the right to vote, fixing elections so your party will win, and targeting vulnerable racial, ethnic, religious and demographic minorities of ordinary Americans devalues the sacrifice men who died, were grievously wounded, and who somehow survived and served in that conflict have made.
What kind of nation sends young men and women into distant parts of the globe or would expect them to fight and die for the preservation of the United States and our Constitution which they solemnly swear loyalty to; defending liberty and equality of opportunity for some and not for all? The Pledge of Allegiance that carries no legal requirement to adhere to but has been a sort of creed recited as churchgoers do the Nicene and Apostles Creeds in the Christian faith promises us “justice for all.”
It would be interesting to see Rick Scott, Scott Walker, Governor Kasich and the other Republicans trying to suppress voting in the United States were first required to look right in the eyes of grieving families at Dover Air Force Base when their son or daughter, brother or sister, or husband or wife comes home with a flag draped over their coffin and in a body bag. Or face-to-face telling a veteran or currently serving solider in our armed forces they fight and risk making the supreme sacrifice so only some people in America get to have democracy.
It won’t be a fraction of a second before our nation’s veterans realize they could someday be on the wrong end of one of these voter suppression laws in force all over America and attempting to be enacted into law in much of the nation. In point of fact, dozens of white, elderly, male highly decorated war veterans have received letters from their State governments in the mail telling THEM, yes, those honored people who saved our democracy again and again that THEY, even that honored few, could be denied the right to vote in the America they defended and continue to defend so nobly.
This is shameful. It ought to embarrass even the most Machiavellian of politicians and throw American Exceptionalism out the window and send the Statue of Liberty running from its pedestal in New York Harbor back to France where it was born. It makes any pretense to the right to call ourselves a democratic Republic a falsehood!
If we are to tell the world we offer the shining example of self-government—that we are the city upon a hill to be emulated and whose council listened to when it comes to how to govern a nation, we cannot mock our very core principles and expect anybody to listen to us just as soon as they realize what hypocrites our nation’s leaders are.
Yes, U.S. combat veterans of our wars ought to have to be convinced eye-to-eye and face-to-face that voter suppression laws denying the vote to U.S. citizens is needed, lawful, and morally right. Go ahead Rick Scott! Go ahead Scott Walker! Make their day! Just try.
Yeah, just try them.