Friday, June 30, 2017

Vox -- Voting rights are under assault nationwide. Here’s how to protect them.

“In a democracy, there is one right that stands atop all the rest: the right to vote. Unless the right of citizens of all races, ethnicities, and classes to cast a ballot is carefully protected, a democracy has limited legitimacy — or none.

“Our country’s history embodies this lesson, telling a story of expanding voting rights culminating with the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights Act did not make up for decades of Jim Crow laws, but it sought to ensure we never returned to those dark days of our history by enshrining the right to vote for Americans of all races. And for 38 years, the VRA accomplished that. Voting rights were protected, and our democratic legitimacy benefited.

“That changed in 2013, when the US Supreme Court struck down a critical component of the VRA in Shelby County v. Holder. The court held that it was no longer reasonable to require states that had discriminatory practices in the 1960s or early 1970s to obtain permission from Washington before changing their voting laws. “Problems remain in these States and others,” wrote Chief Justice Roberts, “but there is no denying that … our Nation has made great strides” toward racial equity.

“Shelby County’s lifting of restrictions on those states, however, has resulted in an unprecedented wave of voter suppression laws. Several states moved quickly to narrow the kinds of identification voters could supply at the polls and to eliminate same-day registration, among other measures. These laws are so clearly tailored to suppress minority voters that former Attorney General Eric Holder described them as having ‘echoes of Jim Crow.’

“The enactment of these laws has coincided with bogus complaints from some quarters about election fraud (especially fraud by minority-group members), which President Donald Trump has loudly endorsed, and which have now led to his creation of a presidential advisory commission tasked with ensuring ‘election integrity.’”

Robert Reich says, As Trump and his enablers cook up ways to make it harder to vote, several states are increasing voter participation by enacting Automatic Voter Registration.

It’s simple and effective: Voters are automatically registered when they sign up for a drivers license or fill out other government forms -- unless, of course, they opt out. In Oregon, where they enacted the system in 2015, 100,000 additional voters turned out for last year's election.

In total, 8 states have now adopted Automatic Voter Registration. It’s being considered in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Democrats have introduced similar legislation in Congress.

This movement is a critical. In May, Trump commissioned a panel to investigate his bogus claims of voter fraud. Previous investigations have found his claims to be completely baseless, but Trump will likely use the commission to pursue and justify restrictive new voting laws.

If your state doesn’t yet have Automatic Voter Registration, get involved and make it happen.

Voting rights are under assault nationwide. Here’s how to protect them.

By Russ Feingold