Good Morning on this penultimate day of 2021. As we bid farewell to this year, today’s blog will venture into new territory, unrelated to writing fiction, book reviews, et cetera.
First, a disclaimer. I’m not an expert in democracy.
I am a citizen of these United States of America who believes that community is an endangered concept today. The notion that personal rights, individual rights are superior to community responsibilities threatens to weaken and undermine this democracy.
You don’t need me to tell you our country and our world faces some bad situations. Allow me to put forward just one: the attempt to suppress voting rights for all citizens.
The right to vote has long been considered one of the cherished freedoms key to American democracy. But voting rights in general were very limited in the Founders’ time and have changed greatly since then.
“The Constitution took effect in early 1789 after the first federal elections. It did not include an express protection of the right to vote, and it was left to the states to determine who was eligible to vote in elections. For the most part, state legislatures generally limited voting to white males who owned land. Some states also utilized religious tests to ensure only Christian men could vote. Gradually, state legislatures began to slightly expand voting rights to non-landowning white males.
“However, it wasn’t until 1870 when the 15th Amendment was ratified that the right to vote was drastically expanded at least in the Constitution’s text by ensuring the right to vote could not be denied based on race. (And although the 15th Amendment extended the right to vote to all citizens regardless of race, Native American people born in the United States were not recognized as full American citizens until the Snyder Act and therefore did not have the right to vote until 1924.)
“The 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, ensured the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex. The 24th Amendment, ratified in 1964, prohibited Congress and the states from implementing a poll tax or other types of tax for federal elections. And the 26th Amendment, ratified in 1971, stated no citizen at least 18 years of age or older may be denied the right to vote on the account of age.
“Despite this forward progress over time, expanding the franchise did not come without pushback. Some state legislatures implemented strategic policies such as poll taxes and literacy tests to reduce voting among people of color, Native Americans, immigrants and low-income populations. These policies remained in effect for decades until Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The act was designed to make sure state and local governments could no longer pass laws or policies that denied citizens the right to vote based on race and other immutable characteristics. This monumental voting rights legislation was expanded several times: in 1975 to protect language minorities, in 1982 to require accommodations and protections for voters with disabilities, and in 1993 to permit voter registration at the motor vehicle departments.
“In 2013, the Supreme Court weighed in on the Voting Rights Act in a significant way in the Shelby County v. Holder case. At issue was whether Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act –a provision of the act that required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to submit proposed changes in voting procedures to the U.S. Department of Justice—was constitutional. A majority of the court held Section that 4(b) – the provision that determined which jurisdictions were covered by Section 5 – was unconstitutional because it was based on an old formula. In effect, Section 5 became unenforceable until Congress designated a new formula. Shortly thereafter, states such as North Carolina, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Virginia began to implement policies previously denied under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
“The right to vote in America has evolved tremendously since 1789. In 2020, for the first time in this nation’s history, over 159 million people voted in a presidential election. This demonstrates that objectively speaking more Americans than ever are exercising their right to the franchise.”
Source: Blog May 27, 2021 by Angelys Torres McBride, The Evolution of Voting Rights in America
The right to vote has always been challenged, threatened, denied. Many individual citizens, some known, many others unknown, fought for the right to vote throughout our nation’s history. Today, the right to vote by all eligible citizens, the vital center of democracy, is again under attack.
It’s our time to act to ensure the right to vote, to protect this imperfect democracy from death. Here are some suggestions for action.
1. Encourage your senators and representatives to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
2. Donate or volunteer for one or more of the following organizations and groups dedicated to voting rights issues:
Nonpartisan Registration Organizations
Vote Forward. VF volunteers send handwritten letters to unregstered and low propensity voters encouraging them to participate. Register/Sign up with FaceBook, Google, or your email, or Donate.
Close up Foundation/ First Vote- http://www.closeup.org
The Close Up Foundation informs, inspires, and empowers people to exercise the rights of citizens in a democracy. By building partnerships with the education community, the private and philanthropic sectors, and all branches and levels of government, they make civic participation a dynamic and meaningful experience. Its First Vote project conducts classroom-based voter registration programs for high school students, offering students an in-depth view of the democratic process, by interactive participation and trips to Washington DC.
Head Count -- http://www.headcount.org/
Head Count is devoted to voter registration and participation in democracy through the power of music. The core belief behind HeadCount is that the live music community is a large, vibrant audience that has the potential to be politically influential if properly represented at the polls. HeadCount uses the assets of the music industry and the incredible influence artists have over their fans to mobilize this audience into action. Its registration drives target young concertgoers at America's largest live music events. This is supported by an aggressive multi-media strategy and artist-based communications.
League of Women Voters – http://www.lwv.org
The League of Women Voters is nonpartisan grassroots political organization, that has fought since 1920 to improve U.S. systems of government and impact public policies through education and advocacy, working towards the goal of "making democracy work." It registers voters through its Vote411 website and local registration events.
Women’s Voices, Women Votes -- http://firstname.lastname@example.org
Women's Voices-Women Vote conducts a turnkey voter registration and get-out-the-vote program targeting unmarried women in 16 states. This program contains all of the elements to locate these women and speak to them about what matters to them. The turnkey program provides a user-friendly way to find them and contact them with research-tested messaging and materials.
“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” Abraham Lincoln.