8 November 2016

By Allan J. Hamilton

Last night Dan Rather, the news commentator, made a very important statement on CNN: he said the biggest untold story of this 2016 election is voter suppression. Systematic efforts have been made by Republican legislatures to prevent voters of color and those in poorer neighborhoods from having easy access to polling places to cast their vote.  Mr. Rather also noted that one of many places where journalists have let the public down in this election cycle is the failure to give this story the sustained, national investigative energy it deserves.

In 2013 the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roberts, struck down one of key provisions of the Voting Rights Acts which protected the rights of minorities in regions of the country where voter discrimination was historically relevant. Since the ruling, 34 states have introduced voter registration laws to restrict voter access to polling places and reduced the number of polling places available to minority voters. These states have been run by Republican legislatures and it has been a major, strategic effort of theirs to make it harder for votes to be cast by citizens from poorer neighborhoods, those with higher percentages of African-Americans, and higher numbers of people of color. Why? Simply because the Republican party does not like the way those populations vote. They don’t vote Republican. But preventing a citizen from casting his or her vote is unconstitutional. It is against every democratic principle this country stands for. This comes from the conservative party, that makes so much of their devotion to upholding the Constitution of the United States. It is repugnant that the party of Lincoln has lent its support to such unethical and shameful maneuvers to silence the voices—the votes—of our people.

I don’t care what party you belong to. I don’t care what part of the country you come from. So many thousands of Americans have died to defend that most sacred and holy of democratic principles: that the people decide who governs in Washington and who represents them and they make that decision manifest by casting their vote.

If there is one thing we must do as part of the healing and re-unification process after this terribly divisive and acrimonious election is to ensure that we re-assert the primacy of the individual’s right to cast his or her vote. That we fulfill our duties to our brothers and sisters and ensure that every citizen is guaranteed free, unfettered access to the ballot box. Our ballot box. The altar of freedom.

We need a Congress that will rise above this nefarious business (talk about a system that is “rigged”) and see that voter suppression in any and every form is abolished. That exercising the right to vote is made as easy as possible to exercise. We need a Congress that passes a law to overturn the United Citizens decision so that never can a company or an individual use their money to ensure that their voices count more than the those of our individual citizens. It’s dawn in America today on the morning of our election and it is time to defend the Temple of Democracy, to rebuild its crumpling façade. It is time to defend the institutions of our country, to ensure they restore our confidence in their ability to work and earn our respect. When we lose faith in Democracy, then we have lost America. God bless America and may He help protect us from those who wish to harm her and to violate the commandments of freedom and democracy enshrined in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights.