“By depriving us of suffrage, you affirm our incapacity to form an intelligent judgment respecting public men and public measures; you declare before the world that we are unfit to exercise the elective franchise, and by this means leads us to undervalue ourselves, to put a low estimate upon ourselves, and to feel that we have no possibilities like other men.”
–Frederick Douglass, What the Black Man Wants, Speech at the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, Boston, April 1865.
“It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people – women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government – the ballot”
–Susan B. Anthony on Women’s Right to Vote 1874
“Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument. Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to ensure that right.”
–President of the United States Lyndon Baines Johnson, Speech on the Voting Rights Act, March 15, 1965
Ever since Republican governors and legislatures began putting into law measures that restrict and impede the right to vote in some 23 states, the efficacy of the right to vote, and our democracy exists under dire threat.
However this fall’s election turns out the dark shadow of voter suppression will hover over the nation established in 1776, renewed and saved in 1865. The 5-4 conservative majority on the United States Supreme Court foolishly, and with intent, struck down that portion of the Voting Rights Act that gave full effect to preventing the massive voter suppression efforts of the Republican Party. I say that simply because no Democrats, independents, or parties of the left in the United States have done a thing to obstruct an American citizen’s right to vote. This salient fact must be noted. There can be no false equivalency here.
Republicans have turned to obstructing voters simply because they know that their views, their policies if you can find them, and the older white makeup of their party, are a declining numerical share of the American demographic. The browning of America scares conservatives, Tea Baggers, and Republicans to death.
When all American citizens in good standing vote, Republicans loose. The United States Census Bureau is now projecting the white majority in the nation at around 60% will be one among many minorities by 2045. We’ll feel the full effect of this much sooner, say around 2020.
Instead of changing those views and attracting new voters of other backgrounds, their expressed repugnance to oppressed minorities of all kinds in the United States has kept Republicans as they are. The only alternative is to hunker down. They are actively, and with some success, making the electorate more white, older, and more conservative.
“Making the electorate more white, older, and more conservative” is denying voters access to the polls, and having the ability to have their vote counted taken from them. The very act of casting a vote in the United States has not been this restricted since the days of Jim Crow. It is a rebuke to the very conception of a functioning democracy.
The most ubiquitous method of thinning out the ranks of voters continues to be Voter ID laws aimed at phantom voter fraud. When defenders say “it’s easy to get an ID” they fail to understand that practically every state that has enacted such laws requires a visit to some office of government that often is far enough away to make it difficult for a some voters to travel to that office.
In the vast wastelands of Texas, offices to legitimize voters are that much further away. And in some cases just this fall, voters who presented themselves to fill out registration forms and get their ID were told that offices had run out of forms, and they should come back at another time. This is next to impossible for many people of color, the elderly, the poor, and distracted college students who in the aggregate so strongly support the Democratic Party.
The practice of telling American citizens that the proper forms are not available to facilitate the exercise of their Constitutional and human right to vote is precisely like that of Southern county clerk’s assistants telling black registrants that the office was not open in the Jim Crow South.
Voters are winnowed out of the electorate in a multitude of inventive but wrongful ways. The act of presenting your birth certificate, a valid U.S. passport that is fully up-to-date and other documents present even more opportunities for the voter suppressors to discourage and impede voting. Birth certificates in every U.S. jurisdiction recording U.S. births cost at least thirty dollars to obtain. Getting a passport is also more than a one step process with forms and photos and signatures required.
White voters who are older have the resources, experience, time, and financial ability to obtain what is required now much more easily. Yes, a small number of white voters will be turned away from the polls this year. But that is a small price to pay for the legions of Democrats, whose constituencies reflect those persons being suppressed. It is the whole point of voter suppression in the first place.
States now having voter suppression measures like Voter ID, have not allocated the funds to expand facilities and access to government offices providing valid Voter IDs. What those states will accept as proof of American citizenship is also overly restrictive. A U.S. passport that has lapsed, out of date driver’s licenses often presented by the elderly, even certificates of citizenship or naturalization are not enough. Document’s that prove the state of residence are not valid.
More often now we see state secretaries of state purging voter rolls with a decidedly Democratic constituency represented in the aggregate. The sow confusion and fear instead of that electric excitement felt by all true lovers of freedom and the rule of law expressed in inclusive, rather than exclusive terms.
We must remember that up until 2010, being already registered and on the voter rolls has always been sufficient to the exercise of the franchise. Now, those same Republican dominated states won’t accept that.
Early voting periods have been slashed significantly. The long practices of black churches bringing their adult members to vote on Sundays are largely gone now.
To any rational outside observer, state and local government authorities in the United States are making it much more difficult to vote in the very nation purporting to be the exemplar of democracy to the world. Anyone watching our reductio ad absurdum politics is witnessing the loss of moral authority the United States has so long enjoyed.
Elections are held on weekdays when working people are at work and cannot easily get to their polling place. By contrast, most of the other great and small democracies of our world hold their elections on weekends and Sundays especially to make it easier to cast a vote and not more difficult.
In Australia, you get fined for not voting. The United States of America has one of the lowest voter participation levels in the civilized world.
The very number of polling places and voting machines are restricted to ensure long lines, long waits of up to eight hours or more in the very neighborhoods or precincts where students, the elderly, people of color, and the poor vote. It must be stated with emphasis that the Constitution of the United States and those of the States no longer require the ownership of landed property or wealth to vote, and have not for a very long time. Citizens are not required to be of the upper middle class and higher to vote. The very poorest citizen can and must be allowed to vote.
We need to get the word out to the human rights organizations around the world, and the United Nations, that we no longer have a fully functioning democracy here. Instead of election observers self- righteously going to chaotic banana republics and places where elections are fraudulent elsewhere, they should be coming here in droves. That ought to shame the voter obstructionists but it does not for they shamelessly distort the electoral process itself simply to win elections any way they can.
Candidates for office, political parties, interest groups, the increasingly corporate subservient media all need to be asked why we don’t have proposals and active initiatives for fundamental electoral reform and to have it now! Demand full democracy now, and not some date held in a fantasy world of the illusory spokespersons of the political right in this country.
The Republican conservative of today on this issue increasingly is fearful of what real democracy looks like, feels, and is. That is a damming stain upon every single one of them until they help lead the change we need to make our democracy live again.
Just how serious are you about making certain that every single adult and non-felonious person who was born or naturalized in the United States from every demographic representative of vox populi has the right to vote? It ought easily and with no restriction express their will at the ballot box come what may.
If for you it must not, I feel sorry for you; I absolutely loathe you, and oppose all you do to impede democracy in America. I loathe the racism, overt or covert that lurks inside you, and your inability to show compassion and love for the rest of our larger polity and the sense of community you have implicitly rejected. The gauntlet has been laid down, and the ball has opened.
Social justice itself depends upon it. A peaceful and informed citizenry depends upon it. The greater civic good depends upon it too.