I have never talked to so many people who were so thoroughly convinced that their vote didn’t matter, that it would not be counted, or that it would be stolen, or that their very right to cast it would be so hamstrung with official bother that it would cease to be a right and simply become another inconvenience. They’re angry. They still may try. But if you’re looking for a sub-theme for why things are the way they are in the polls, that’s my stab at it. The country’s dead-level, frustrated and angry, but not necessarily motivated, and a substantial number of people think the whole thing is a waste and an equally substantial number believe that it’s not on the square.
Charles Pierce on John Lewis’s all-important but little covered speech on voting rights (via bostonreview)
The Civil Rights movement in part was about securing the right to vote. Today, the fight is over the means of voting. Are you surprised or disappointed that there isn’t more public protest or condemnation over what’s happening?
I am surprised, shocked and deeply disappointed that there isn’t more public protest or condemnation of what has happened in America. People are not being beaten and trampled by horses or tear gassed, people are not being shot and killed. The obstructions are not as obvious, but the effect of what state legislatures and party officials are doing will damage the integrity of our political process for generations to come, if it is not corrected. As a people and as a nation, we are too quiet. All of us should be up on our feet. There should be public outcry. There should be a sense of righteous indignation over what is happening during this election season. We should not just roll over and allow it to happen. Lawyers, political scientists, scholars, activists, teachers, ministers, seniors, farmers and ordinary citizens should be speaking up, speaking out and making some noise about what is happening in America.
In the end, the Constitution proscribed six instances in which Congress would require more than a majority vote: impeaching the president, expelling members, overriding a presidential veto of a bill or order, ratifying treaties and amending the Constitution. … “The Framers were aware of the established rule of construction, expressio unius est exclusio alterius, and that by adopting these six exceptions to the principle of majority rule, they were excluding other exceptions.” By contrast, in the Bill of Rights, the Founders were careful to state that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
As a textual matter, this is a strong constitutional argument. Yet it is likely not to get off the ground because of something known as the “political question doctrine.” As the Supreme Court explained in Baker v. Carr, federal courts generally should avoid deciding questions where there is a “textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department” — meaning that the Constitution’s text suggests that an issue should be decided by the executive or legislative branch and not by the judiciary. Because the Constitution provides that “[e]ach House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings,” the courts are likely — although not entirely certain — to dismiss this case because the Constitution reserves questions of Senate procedure to the Senate itself.
Now, civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) has joined with 50 members of Congress to write an open letter to the Georgia State Board of Pardon & Paroles asking it to grant clemency to Troy Davis because of the “cloud of doubt” that exists over his case:
It is clear now that the doubts plaguing Davis’s case can never be adequately addressed; the lack of scientific or relevant physical evidence has made it impossible to resolve with any degree of certainty. Over the last four years, the inability of our courts to resolve these uncertainties has shaken public confidence in our judicial system, and an execution under such a cloud of doubt would do nothing but further undermine that confidence. Public faith in the integrity of justice in Georgia is at stake and it is for this reason that we urge you to grant clemency to Troy Davis.
AS we celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, we reflect on the life and legacy of this great man. But recent legislation on voting reminds us that there is still work to do. Since January, a majority of state legislatures have passed or considered election-law changes that, taken together, constitute the most concerted effort to restrict the right to vote since before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Growing up as the son of an Alabama sharecropper, I experienced Jim Crow firsthand. It was enforced by the slander of “separate but equal,” willful blindness to acts of racially motivated violence and the threat of economic retaliation. The pernicious effect of those strategies was to institutionalize second-class citizenship and restrict political participation to the majority alone.
We have come a long way since the 1960s. When the Voting Rights Act was passed, there were only 300 elected African-American officials in the United States; today there are more than 9,000, including 43 members of Congress. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act — also known as the Motor Voter Act — made it easier to register to vote, while the 2002 Help America Vote Act responded to the irregularities of the 2000 presidential race with improved election standards.
Despite decades of progress, this year’s Republican-backed wave of voting restrictions has demonstrated that the fundamental right to vote is still subject to partisan manipulation. The most common new requirement, that citizens obtain and display unexpired government-issued photo identification before entering the voting booth, was advanced in 35 states and passed by Republican legislatures in Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri and nine other states — despite the fact that as many as 25 percent of African-Americans lack acceptable identification.
Having fought for voting rights as a student, I am especially troubled that these laws disproportionately affect young voters. Students at state universities in Wisconsin cannot vote using their current IDs (because the new law requires the cards to have signatures, which those do not). South Carolina prohibits the use of student IDs altogether. Texas also rejects student IDs, but allows voting by those who have a license to carry a concealed handgun. These schemes are clearly crafted to affect not just how we vote, but who votes.
Conservative proponents have argued for photo ID mandates by claiming that widespread voter impersonation exists in America, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. While defending its photo ID law before the Supreme Court, Indiana was unable to cite a single instance of actual voter impersonation at any point in its history. Likewise, in Kansas, there were far more reports of U.F.O. sightings than allegations of voter fraud in the past decade. These theories of systematic fraud are really unfounded fears being exploited to threaten the franchise.