Monday, May 8, 2017

Voting & Making Changes for the Future part 1

metamora herald voting issues

Life can be so strange sometimes. Coincidences happen and you know there is not a real explanation of why. For instance, yesterday May 7th, 2017, I decided to watch the movie, Selma. I really didn’t know what it was about except there was something to do with Dr. Martin Luther King[MLK] and I really wanted to see what it. [I am a big history buff] It was a pivotal moment in American History and the Civil Rights Movement. Because of the bravery of MLK and many of the citizens in Selma, Alabama, the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. 

What is the Voting Rights Act? It is a law passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, that was an absolute necessity at that time. During the 1960’s registering to vote was made to be a very difficult process for black people in Alabama and other states. Many times they were denied after being put through rigorous testing, filling out difficult forms, and in some places being charged money to register. Dr. MLK and his brave band of heroes went to Selma to help out. People were being beaten with clubs by police just for wanting to register to vote, and some were beaten to death. The story is so compelling and I am glad they were triumphant.

However, in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court decided to change Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act leaving the decisions of the formula to Congress. This section covers a provision about 15 states that have to get "preclearance" before changing any voting/election laws. Most of those states are southern and were  prone to discrimination of voting rights in the past due to color. 

[1] Proponents of the laws, however, have argued that voter ID requirements are the best way to ensure the integrity of the democratic process and avoid fraud. “No law should prevent someone from exercising their right to vote, but verifying who you are when you go to vote shouldn’t be so much to ask,” said Gene Berardelli, a New York-based lawyer who is a proponent of certain requirements. New York does not have a voter ID law on the books.

I can see this point of view, but let me be honest with you here. Does anyone actually think that someone would escape their country, travel many miles risking imprisonment, find lodging and a job, spend most of their time in hiding just to come out and vote in public elections? Really? Does it occur to anyone how difficult it is to get Americans to vote? We need to move forward now and make this process more easily available. 

Fortunately for all of us that is exactly what is happening. [2] On June 24, 2015, the Voting Rights Advancement Act (Advancement Act) (H.R. 2867 / S. 1659) was introduced in the House and Senate. The Advancement Act has received broad and vocal support from the civil rights community because it responds to the unique, modern-day challenges of voting discrimination that has evolved in the 50 years since the Voting Rights Act first passed. The Advancement Act recognizes that changing demographics require tools that protect voters nationwide—especially voters of color, voters who rely on languages other than English, and voters with disabilities. It also requires that jurisdictions make voting changes public andTransparent.

On May 5th, 2017, in Illinois the state’s Senate passed a bill for Automatic Voter Enrollment. It has to pass through the Illinois House and then be approved by Governor Rauner. In 2016, Rauner vetoed this bill, fearing it was not strict enough for noncitizens and other issues. The house has revised this bill, per his requests and hopefully this time it will become a law. The time to act is now. We can no longer stand by and let our decisions be made for us. We the people need to act promptly if we want to see a positive change for our future. I have been lucky enough to live in an area where I personally have had no issues with voting. I would like to keep it that way. 

[3] In his State of the Union speech, President Obama called on lawmakers and the public to take a number of steps "to change the system to reflect our better selves" for "a better politics." The top item on that list was to end partisan gerrymandering: "we have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around," Obama said. 

Sources: [1]   [2]  [3]

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