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Universal Voting Franchise Still Troubles Some

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Universal Voting Franchise Still Troubles Some

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Redistricting case goes to the supreme court

The universal franchise is a radical idea — and a relatively new one in human history. The proposition that each man or woman is given equal footing at the ballot box, whether rich or poor, brilliant or simple, black, white or brown, broke with a sturdy convention in human affairs: that the rich and powerful should rule or, at the very least, choose the rulers.

That idea of a universal franchise still chafes some in power, though; it still troubles those who believe their proper role among the chosen is threatened when all people are allowed to cast a vote. It has clearly bothered some Republican politicians, who have spent the last decade trying to reverse one of the most significant accomplishments of the civil rights era: the expanded franchise.

Around the country, GOP-led legislatures have found inventive ways to make it more difficult to vote, in some cases reversing innovations they had approved one or two years before. They were immeasurably assisted by a 2013 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which, dominated by its right wing, tore the heart out of the Voting Rights Act.

With that assist, legislatures cut back on days for early voting. They ended convenient regulations that allowed qualified citizens to register and vote on the same day. And, most notoriously, they instigated a requirement for certain kinds of photo IDs, usually a driver’s license. As many researchers have noted, black Americans are less likely to own cars and, therefore, less likely to possess a driver’s license.

Happily, though, this long and un-American campaign against the universal franchise may finally be losing steam. In the last month, federal courts have ruled against restrictive voting laws in five states. While the Republican Party has long insisted its crusade for stringent voting laws is intended to protect against voter fraud, federal courts are beginning to see restrictions for what they are: an effort to turn back the clock to a time when few black or brown citizens were able to vote.

In North Carolina, for example, a federal court ruling stated that the GOP-led legislature’s new voting restrictions “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” Republican leaders looked at data in order to ferret out which demographic groups were more likely to be represented in certain voting patterns. When their research showed, for example, that black voters were more likely to use the two convenient Sunday voting days, they cut one of those out.

As the court noted, the state said so in its own testimony: “The State then elaborated on its justification, explaining that “counties with Sunday voting in 2014 were disproportionately black” and “disproportionately Democratic.”

But, then, that wasn’t the first time that Republicans have let slip their actual intent.

Back in April, a Wisconsin GOP congressman was refreshingly honest when asked whether he thought the Republican presidential nominee could carry his state, which has voted Democratic in presidential elections since 1984.

“Now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is gonna make a little bit of a difference,” replied Rep. Glenn Grothman.

As it turns out, a federal court recognized that possibility as well and struck down portions of Wisconsin’s law (though the voter ID requirement remains largely intact). “The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement. … To put it bluntly, Wisconsin’s strict version of voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease,” wrote U.S. District Judge James Peterson.

The Founding Fathers, national myths notwithstanding, didn’t actually embrace the concept of a broad franchise. They had a more restrictive construction in mind. But over generations, the nation has lived up to its ideals, expanding the right to vote to include all citizens over the age of 18.

That hasn’t been an easy journey. It has taken a civil war, several amendments to the U.S. Constitution and a half-century civil rights struggle. The mighty and privileged don’t share power easily. They understood that a universal franchise would upend the status quo.

And so it has. Barack Obama’s victories were powered by a coalition that included record numbers of voters of color, African-American, Latino, Asian-American. That’s what makes the universal franchise such a powerful weapon — and so dangerous to those who don’t really believe in democracy.

(Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.)

Photo: A sign points the way toward the voting booths as voting commences in North Carolina’s U.S. presidential primary election at Sharon Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. on March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane/File Photo

 

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Cynthia Tucker Haynes

Cynthia Tucker Haynes, a veteran newspaper journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner, is a Visiting Professor of Journalism and Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Georgia. She is also a highly-regarded commentator on TV and radio news shows.

Haynes was editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper for 17 years, where she led the development of opinion policy. More recently, she was that newspaper’s Washington-based political columnist. She maintains a syndicated column through Universal Press Syndicate, which is published in dozens of newspapers around the country. Besides winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007, Haynes has also received numerous other awards, including Journalist of the Year from the National Association of Black Journalists.

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24 Comments

  1. Nancy Havernick August 7, 2016

    It is interesting that it was Republican legistlators that won the right to vote for freed slaves and were also in the forefront for the right for women to vote. The current intent seems to be one valid vote for each non-felon citizen. I believe all states issue non-driver state id cards which would work fine and not require a driver. In the last election there were too many people getting on the news bragging about voting multiple times in the same election. One citizen (preferably alive), one vote.

    Reply
    1. rickd24 August 7, 2016

      I’ve NEVER seen a story about people bragging about voting multiple times. Most of the stories I’ve read have been about how Republican led legislatures have made it more difficult to vote. Of course they allow non-driver’s licenses to be used for ID. But why would they allow gun licenses (more likely to be conservative) and not student ID’s (more likely to be liberal)? Or make it more difficult to register in poorer areas of the state by having fewer places available to register, or have shorter hours?

      Maybe you could provide some examples of these articles you’ve read? It’s easy to find plenty of mine.

      Reply
      1. Nancy Havernick August 7, 2016

        I tend to not believe everything I read, went back to You-tube for clip from a local station entitled: Woman votes multiple times in Election 2012, denies Voter Fraud.

        Reply
        1. bobnstuff August 7, 2016

          Here is the problem with this story, Had she really done it and went on TV to brag she would have gone to jail. Voter fraud is a crime. I’ve been a poll watcher and at least in my polling place and in the one that my brothers works there is NO in person voter fraud. You hear the stories of dead people voting but you will notice that these laws are not aimed at that problem directly, they use it to restrict everyone’s rights. If they really wanted to insure one man one vote they would create a national voters registration and have the Clerk of Wills send notice when a death certificate is created. When someone registers to vote they remove them for their old voting place. If they really wanted to stop fraud they could. Have you seen one republican introduce any laws like these? For the party that waves the constitution around so much you would think they would be doing everything they could to protect a persons constitutional right to vote. I guess their copy only shows one amendment, the second.

          Reply
          1. Nancy Havernick August 8, 2016

            The Department of Justice objected to some precincts purging their registrations of dead voters too close to an election, labeled it voter suppression. It would make sense to have some agreeable national standards for national elections so we could all stop throwing stones. Bottom line is we want legitimate voters to vote, without fraud. Maybe, we should wait and cross match absentee ballots and discard those from people who also signed in to vote at the polls. We could also wait long enough to get the ballots from our troops. If anyone deserves to vote, it is the folks defending the country. No-one can tell from the news story whether the proud multi-voter was later prosecuted or not.

            Reply
          2. bobnstuff August 8, 2016

            We do cross match absentee ballots just like voting in person. The fact is voter fraud isn’t really all that common and in a national or even state wide election it would take an fair amount to effect the outcome. As I keep saying if anyone believes that voter fraud is a problem go work the polls.

            Reply
    2. Jon August 7, 2016

      What news sources were you using? I followed election and post-election news from various media sources and none of them reported people bragging about voting multiple times. I want to read about what I apparently missed.

      Reply
      1. Eleanore Whitaker August 7, 2016

        All the jiggly butt, big haired bottle bottles in DixieBelle and Corn Pone Queen states want is the power to FORCE their will on the rest of us.

        I’ve voted in nearly every NJ election since I registered in 1966. Not once am I asked for ID.

        Why is it the dipshit states ALL seem to have this problem? Or, is it that they just want White Supremacy to be the rule in their states’ rights states that mostly ignore the U.S. Constitution unless it means flushing 65% of OUR taxes to their bigot states.

        Reply
      2. Nancy Havernick August 7, 2016

        It was video clips on Network news channels. We didn’t have cable at the last election. They were quite proud of themselves. There were also several precincts that recorded more votes than there were registered voters.

        Reply
        1. bobnstuff August 7, 2016

          I don’t know about the clip but you can’t have more voters then you have people registered. Have you never voted? They don’t just hand you a ballet. They look you up to check to see if your are registered and at least in Pa. you sign to show you voted. They don’t need ID they can and do match your signature. In my polling pl ace the pool workers seem to know everyone and in may cases great you by name.

          Reply
    3. Eleanore Whitaker August 7, 2016

      Havernick, Your rights are equal to mine. Why should I be forced to do what YOU want? Just so you can prove how powerful YOU are.

      Sorry but my Dad was born in Italy and became a US citizen when your parents were in the back seat of the car spawning you. He didn’t need ID EVERY time he voted and neither do I.

      How is it ONLY the Republican states ALL seem to have a control freak population who think they can BS their power on the rest of the world and tell us who and what we are and must do.

      Sorry little girl if McMommy and McDaddy’s McMansion was so important you got dumped off into daycare like a sack of potatoes and now you want to get even with the rest of the world for that.

      The U.S. Constitution in Dem states functions without multiple votes because as we all know DUH…you pay taxes in your state and at the federal level. Once you register to vote at the local voting district, they KEEP that record for the rest of your voting life.

      Sorry bigot girl if you DixieBelle and Corn Pone Queen states are so grossly racist that in AL, the good ole good ole white boys in charge decided to close the SS offices rather than allow people to actually get SS records as voter proof. Any more BS you want to sling around Tootsie?

      Reply
      1. Nancy Havernick August 7, 2016

        My parents were relatively poor and there was no fancy daycare. Who are you to make such assumptions? I don’t remember what it took for me to register to vote for the first time, but we have a similar system of signing our name when we come in to vote. My handicapped husband now uses an absentee ballot. I have never lived down south. All valid citizens should have the right to vote. That is no contest. The lists do need to be purged from time to time to eliminate dead voters. It seems that it is not unreasonable to make voting at least as important as buying beer or walking into the DNC convention, both of which required photo id’s. Our precinct doesn’t, but the requirement does not automatically mean voter suppression. We are all descendants of immigrants with the exception of Native Americans. We should all be able to vote once per election. In many states, voter registration is now being linked to the DMV, and in many states, citizenship is no longer a requirement for a driver’s license. So, it is already possible to vote without being a citizen. You can make valid points without being insulting.

        Reply
        1. bobnstuff August 7, 2016

          I haven’t shown ID to buy beer in thirty years. If you really believe that there is voter fraud go work the polls. Your party would be happy to have you. You do know that each party sends people to the pools to watch and make sure things are on the up and up.

          Reply
    4. Jinmichigan August 7, 2016

      “In the last election there were too many people getting on the news bragging about voting multiple times in the same election.”

      You have a very vivid imagination.

      Reply
    5. 788eddie August 7, 2016

      Just because, as you say, there were “too many people getting on the news bragging about voting multiple times in the same election” doesn’t mean it actually happened. Many of those stories were sourced to Fox, and I don’t have to tell you the implications of that.

      The only persons who were actually brought up on charges and convicted in recent years (for which there are arrest and court records) were tied to Republicans. In any event, it was only a couple of people.

      I do like your idea of using drevers and non-drivers I.D.s if needed.

      I have never had any issue with voting (and I have never missed exercising my right to vote). I enter the polling place, walk to the table for my group (alphabetical, by last name), state my name, and a polling person looks up my name and has me sign my name next to my signature from the last time I voted. This seems like a pretty good system that would be difficult to get around.

      Reply
      1. Beethoven August 9, 2016

        I live in Alabama, and my voting experience is basically the same as yours, except that I do have to show a voter ID, which in my case is my driver’s license. I don’t have any objection to a requirement that voters have to show a voter ID before voting if such an ID is easily obtainable at no cost. But if someone has to pay a fee to get a voter ID, that is just another form of poll tax, which is unconstitutional. And if they have to travel a long distance, or wait in line a long time, especially if the entire process can’t be completed in an hour or so, that is just an attempt to restrict voting to people who can afford the time and money involved, and should be considered unconstitutional.

        Reply
        1. 788eddie August 10, 2016

          I like your thoughts, Beethoven. I find I’m in total agreement with you.

          Reply
  2. greenlantern1 August 7, 2016

    Butterflies have ballots!
    Hanging chad counts!
    Shouldn’t Americans have the right to vote?

    Reply
  3. Dan S August 7, 2016

    Republicans can’t win on the issues without disenfranchising voters who have the right to vote

    Reply
    1. 788eddie August 7, 2016

      For that reason alone, they should be “put down.”

      Reply
      1. Ruthscustard2 August 8, 2016

        <<rw. ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★::::::!ir243m:….,….,..

        Reply
  4. Eleanore Whitaker August 7, 2016

    Read your U.S. Constitution. Nothing in the Articles allow rich men to make ALL of the decision in a democracy.

    If any of you caught Anthony Bourdain’s latest travel episode wherein he visited Russia under Putin, you’d have seen why The Donald is so smoochy, smoochy with Putin. This particular episode was interesting because although all of the Big Brother Soviet bugs are no longer in existence, one wrong word about Putin and you get shot dead.

    At the end of this particular episode, one of the outspoken journalists with whom Bourdain and his other Russian friend dined with, was apparently shot dead as a result of being on camera with Bourdain.

    When the scenes of St. Petersburg were shone, it look like billionaire crony town. This is what Republicans, the control freak right wing and Tea Party attack dogs want for the US. An end to our Constitutional rights.

    Dare to oppose their beaknosed views and they go ballistic. Allow that to continue and you’ll be living as they do in Russia…NO freedom to speak your mind unless a dictator approves.

    Or as that now dead journalist said during his meeting with Bourdain, “Russia today IS Putin.”

    Will the US today BE Trump?

    Reply
    1. Oddworld August 7, 2016

      That is indeed scary. I wasn’t aware that had occurred.
      It doesn’t sound like that much of a stretch to assume some
      in America would like to implement a similar system. I’ve often
      wondered if our own Forefathers intended for a similar system. In the beginning of our new Republic only men of considerable means were allowed to vote. One notable
      difference is at least there was freedom of the press.

      Reply
  5. Rick2101 August 7, 2016

    The Founding Fathers, at the time, only considered white men who own property had a right to vote. They did have the forethought to allow for amendments to their Constitution to allow for changes that the people wanted.

    There is a difference between Conservative Republicans and those that claim to have “conservative values”. The followers of Trump have a new moniker “Conservathal” it is the combining of the adjective “conservative” with the noun “Neanderthal Man”. Those that grasp the fusion do not need an explanation, those that do need an explanation will probably not understand it anyway and would therefore be redundant. Conservathal: “This is the stereotype: They are high school educated, gun-totin’, flag-wavin’, bigots who love the bragging, swaggering bully in Trump.” https://www.nationalmemo.com/ch
    Donald “The Fraud” Trump will never be President of the United States. He entered the Primaries as a lark, a way to increase TV viewership. Much to his, and everyone else, he won the Republican nomination. Now he is looking for a way out, he cannot face the humiliation, in his eyes, to lose to a girl. He will come up with some kind of “breakdown” excuse, take the money from his sham of a campaign then after the election have a “miraculous” recovery. He probably even believes he has a “career” to fall back on, but by then his name will be Mudd.

    Reply

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