Most of us ignore the electoral process except when we’re voting. We stand in line and punch the card, carefully sweeping off the chads before we put it in the box. And leave the polls believing in the validity of our vote.
Better bring some identification — and not just any identification, official though it may be — if you plan to vote in Republican-controlled states. However, if you contribute tens of millions of dollars to sway an election on Republicans’ behalf, the party will fight to keep your identity a secret.
Consider, for instance, what happened to some attempting to participate in this month’s elections in Texas. The New York Times reported that “Judge Sandra Watts was stopped while trying to vote because the name on her photo ID, the same one she had used for voter registration and identification of 52 years, did not exactly match her name in the official voter rolls.” Both Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis and Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott — the front-runners in next year’s gubernatorial contest — encountered the same obstacle. As did Jim Wright, the 90-year-old former speaker of the U.S.
The Supreme Court’s activist conservative majority, in a 5-4 vote on June 25, threw out the provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which required states and localities (mostly in the Old Confederacy) to clear any changes in electoral law with the federal Department of Justice. The argument was that the criteria and standards used by Congress were obsolete. Congress is invited to revise them, but of course everyone (including the justices) knows that this Congress is too gridlocked to agree on anything of the sort.
But, to paraphrase the old saying, when the Court gives you lemons, make lemonade. As the Court’s opinion affirms, conditions surrounding voting in this country are now radically different than they were in 1965. The old Democratic Solid South with legal discrimination against African American voters has been replaced by a Republican hegemony that is adapted to black voting. At the same time,
Reactions to the Supreme Court’s ruling Tuesday that halts the use of a key provision in the landmark Voting Rights Act (VRA) included disappointment, motivation to continue community organizing and a sense that it was fair.
The Associated Press and Equal Voice News collected comments from elected officials and community leaders, who work directly on voter engagement issues and in key states affected by the Supreme Court’s decision.
President Barack Obama:
“I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today… Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where discrimination has been historically prevalent.”
Scott Douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries in Alabama:
“Our deepest concern is that if a state like ours had the gall to pass voter suppression and racially-discriminatory laws under the scrutiny of Section 5 of the VRA,
During much of this, my second year of retirement, I have been reading the three volumes of Taylor Branch’s history of America during the years of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the struggle for civil rights. Those rights hinged on the capacity of African Americans to vote, which state governments across the Deep South, especially, had precluded through a combination of laws and social conventions, reinforced by white-on-black violence. Here is the author’s first paragraph of the preface to his concluding volume in the trilogy:
“Nonviolence is an orphan among democratic ideas. It has nearly vanished from public discourse even though the most basic element of free government – the vote – has no other meaning. Every ballot is a piece of nonviolence, signifying hard-won consent to raise politics above firepower and bloody conquest. Such compacts work more or less securely in different lands. Nations gain strength from vote-based institutions in commerce and civil society,