Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Barriers to Voting

The Supreme Courts decision in the case, Shelby County v. Holder will go down as one of the court’s absolute worst.  It was an act of judicial activism in which five conservative justices ruled a key provision of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional.  Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act had required what’s known as pre-clearance of any changes to the way elections are run in parts of our country.

At Howard University's commencement ceremony, President Obama lectured young African American graduates: “So you got to vote all the time, not just when it’s cool, not just when it's time to elect a President, not just when you’re inspired.  It's your duty.  When it’s time to elect a member of Congress or a city councilman, or a school board member, or a sheriff.  That’s how we change our politics, by electing people at every level who are representative of and accountable to us.  It is not that complicated.  Don’t make it complicated.”
Fifty years after the Voting Rights Act was passed there are still too many barriers for people to vote.  We are the only advanced democracy on Earth that goes out of its way to make it difficult for people to vote.

However, even if every barrier to voting is dismantled, that alone would not change the fact that America has some of the lowest voting rates.  In 2014, only 36 percent of Americans turned out to vote in the midterms.  The second lowest participation rate on record would be college age voters.  Their turnout was less than 20 percent.  Four out of five didn’t vote.

In 2012, nearly two in three African Americans turned out, but in 2014, only two in five turned out.  That made a difference in terms of the Congress, and what President Obama was able to accomplish.  That is the reason some complain Obama hasn’t gotten things done.  If you have more votes than the other party in Congress, you get to do what you want.  When young African Americans don’t vote, they disenfranchise themselves.  

Had 50, 60, 70 percent, of young voters had turned out to vote in 2014, all across America, the results would have been much different.  Young people need to use their votes to stop others from taking away the right to vote from the elderly, poor, the people formerly incarcerated, who are trying to earn their second chance.  


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