Monday, October 3, 2016

Who Gets to Vote?

Marta Monteiro

Alexander Keyssar, a Professor of History and Social Policy at Harvard, is the author of “The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States, has written this article in The New York Times Sunday Review Opinion section.

In recent years, you’ve needed a scorecard to keep track of Voting laws in the United States. For nearly a decade, Republican-dominated State Legislatures have been churning out strict Voter ID laws and other measures likely to reduce access to the ballot box. But the pace of activity quickened after June 2013, when the Supreme Court disabled a vital provision of the Voting Rights Act, the so-called preclearance provision, opening the door to restrictive Legislation in the nine states, and parts of six others, that had been covered by the law.

Over the last few months, however, Federal Courts around the Country have overturned, challenged or blocked some of the most restrictive laws, including in Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin, as well as Ohio’s method of purging the Voting rolls. The cases differ; many legal issues will remain unsettled until after this year’s Election; and Republicans in North Carolina and Texas have already tried to circumvent the Courts’ decisions.

The historical record offers glimmers of hope: previous eras of disenfranchisement or Voter suppression have come to an end. This has sometimes happened within states when a Political Party fostering suppressive or exclusive laws recognizes that, despite those laws, its hold on power may be slipping away thanks to social or demographic changes and that it would be best to stop antagonizing, and even court, blocs of potential voters. One could imagine this happening sooner or later in North Carolina, Georgia and even Texas.

An alternative path involves the Federal Government. At key historical junctures, both Congress and the Courts have overridden State laws in order to protect core democratic rights. In 1935, the Supreme Court upheld the “whites only” Democratic Primary in Texas; nine years later, with new Justices on the Court and a million uniformed African-Americans fighting overseas, it reversed that decision. Congress acted similarly in 1869 and 1919, when it approved Constitutional Amendments prohibiting disenfranchisement based on race and gender, and again in 1965, when it first passed the Voting Rights Act.

At the moment we do not have either a Congress or a Supreme Court that seems much inclined to take steps of this type. But that could be one more reason to vote in November.

CLICK HERE to read the article.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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