The right to a free and fair vote is the cornerstone of a democratic government. Citizens must be allowed to choose their candidates in an election—people should be encouraged to choose the leaders of our government. Unfortunately (and almost shockingly), this fundamental freedom is being attacked today.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday joined the larger Democratic effort to spotlight voting rights ahead of this year’s midterms, blasting “active efforts to deter people from voting.”
No one can deny that fact. In fact, the New York Times reports, “Over the last 15 months, at least nine states have enacted voting changes making it harder to cast ballots. A federal judge last month upheld laws in Arizona and Kansas requiring proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or a passport, leading other states to explore following suit.”
“Apparently [voter restriction] is fairly active here in Texas,” Obama told supporters at a Houston fundraiser. “The idea that you’d purposely try to prevent people from voting? Un-American. How is it that we’re putting up with that? We don’t have to.”
Not only has voting rights been challenged in states like Texas and North Carolina, it has even hit our home state, Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, which was passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Corbett in March of 2012, was one of the most restrictive in the nation and did not allow many commonly used identification cards for voting. Most voters would have been forced to travel to one of only 71 Pennsylvania Department of Transportation locations to obtain state-issued identification.
The law especially burdened the elderly, minorities, unmarried women, college students, those with limited mobility and disabilities, and the homeless.
Fortunately, the Commonwealth court found this law signed by Corbett unconstitutional, because “there is no legal, non-burdensome provision of a compliant photo ID to all qualified electors,” stated Judge McGinley.
Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania citizens who lack one of the limited forms of acceptable photo ID can now cast their ballots without burdensome obstacles. By protecting voting as a fundamental right, today’s decision affirms that all Pennsylvania voters should have the opportunity to participate equally in the democratic process.
Women and minorities did not march and protest for their right to vote only to have it denied to our children and grandchildren. I just cannot understand why, after years of demanding for this elemental right, Republicans are attempting to pass laws that make it harder, not easier, for people to vote.
“Is this what Martin Luther King gave his life for?” President Clinton asked, “Is this what Lyndon Johnson employed his legendary skills for? Is this what America has become a great thriving democracy for? To restrict the franchise?”
Of course, Republicans are only attempting to weed out the vote of those who would most likely vote Democrat, denying this freedom to many that need their voices heard in government.
Remarkably, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is coming up in July. It seems ironic that, during the second term of our nation’s first African-American President, we are almost being pushed back into the dustbin of old history.
Clearly, we cannot tolerate the discrimination of citizens in the voting process. All voices that want to speak to their government should be allowed to do so, without the constraints of those who want nothing but to silence them.