FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Still Fighting for the Right to Vote

by JESSE JACKSON

This week, I wanted to focus my column once more on the issue of voting, as the 49th anniversary approaches of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Ala., that I touched on last week. It’s worth discussing once more.

After 246 years of slavery, Americans fought a brutal Civil War — the bloodiest in our history — to end slavery and preserve the union. Three amendments were added to the Constitution: the 13th abolished slavery; the 14th guaranteed equal protection under the laws, and the 15th outlawed discrimination in voting on the basis of race or prior servitude.

But although they surrendered on the battlefield, the Confederates did not give up. They waged a fierce rear-guard battle over state sovereignty, also known as “states’ rights.” They sabotaged the post-war reconstruction, unleashing a wave of terror across the South. Several states began to enforce segregation against the newly freed slaves. And in the shameful decision of Plessey v. Ferguson in 1896, the Supreme Court gave approval to state Jim Crow laws, endorsing the oxymoron of “separate but equal.”

It took another half century of struggle to re-establish the reach of the civil rights amendments. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed to enforce the 15th Amendment’s guarantee against discrimination in voting. States, counties and municipalities in the South continued to invent new obstacles to voting, but for areas with a history of discrimination — largely Southern states — the Voting Rights Act required pre-clearance of any changes in voting laws. This enabled the Justice Department to prevent significant voter suppression.

But having lost the military battle in 1865 and the legal battle in 1965, the Confederates did not give up. They continued to argue for states’ rights. And since the 15th Amendment only outlawed denying a citizen his right to vote based on race or color, voting procedures remained under the control of states and localities.

In 2013, with a conservative majority in control of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court revived states-rights arguments in Shelby v. Holder, acting shamefully to weaken federal authority, gutting much of the vital preclearance portions of the Voting Rights Act.

Once more as the federal authority was weakened, the Confederates churned out new obstacles to voting — strict photo ID requirements, elimination of same-day voter registration, reducing early voting periods, eliminating early registration for young people, outlawing use of student IDs and more.

Within two hours of the Shelby decision, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot — now running for governor — announced that the Texas’voter identification law, previously rejected by the U.S. Justice Department and a federal court (which said it was the most discriminatory measure of its kind in the country), would immediately be implemented. North Carolina followed shortly. Now some 34 states have erected new obstacles to voting.

The absence of a constitutional guarantee to the right to vote remains the source of continuing injustice. Professor Obama wasn’t just teaching history; he was introducing his students to an ongoing human rights struggle.

If the fundamental individual right to vote had been constitutionally guaranteed in 2000, Al Gore would have been elected president over George W. Bush because all the individual votes of Floridians would have had to be counted, as felons in Florida were not allowed to cast their votes. The individual right of Florida’s citizens would have taken precedence over Florida’s state laws.

If there were a constitutionally guaranteed right to vote, we would not have different laws for 50 different states and 13,000 election jurisdictions. We’d have a federal law that would govern voting rights for all.

Congressmen Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., have introduced House Joint Resolution 44 to amend the Constitution to guarantee the right to vote. It would provide every American with a fundamental individual right to vote and give Congress the clear authority to create a unified national voting system with minimum standards.

The right to vote is not a partisan question. It should not be left to changing legislatures or biased Supreme Court majorities. It should be clearly guaranteed in the Constitution.

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow PUSH.

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail