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Posts Tagged ‘More Perfect Union’

votingPresident-elect Donald Trump’s fabricated claims that undocumented immigrants have voted in numbers large enough to sway the popular vote undermines citizens’ trust in our democracy, undercuts the legitimacy of U.S. democracy abroad, and demonizes undocumented immigrants while diverting attention from legitimate concerns about our democracy, including money in politics, suppression of U.S. citizens’ right to vote, and gerrymandering.

Rates of voter fraud of the type President-elect Trump is alleging are miniscule, ranging from 0.00004 percent to 0.0009 percent, according to a seminal report by the Brennan Center for Justice. However, by making unfounded claims of voter fraud involving millions of people, President-elect Trump sows deep distrust of our elections and challenges the fundamental right of every American to have a voice in our democracy through his or her vote. At best, his contention could result in voter suppression if enough people think the system is so flawed they decide not to participate. At worst, it damages the foundation of our democracy by calling into question the validity of our elections.

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By Fanta Aw

On October 31 at 3:56 p.m., I reported to the designated voting center to cast my early vote. Given what is at stake during this election for both my adopted country the United States, and for the world, I was not about to take any chances and miss my opportunity to exercise my right to vote. As I entered the civic center this beautiful Monday, I found close to a hundred people in the polling area poised to cast their vote. It brought a smile to my face, warmed my heart, and sustained my hope for this country.

Looking at the faces around me, I believed that many of these other voters, like myself, understood that much is at stake in this election, and that we cannot afford to be silent or sit on the sidelines. We were not going to be bystanders. I was especially hopeful when several people ahead of me were identified as first-time voters. They reminded me so much of myself when I cast my important first vote in 2008. It was a historic vote for our first African-American president. Once again, I was about to cast another historic vote, a vote that would ensure that this nation stands for what is right, and a vote that would ensure our collective future is not jeopardized.

Find U.S. election resources at www.connectingourworld.org/elections.

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UPDATE: Adding to the string of recent victories for supporters of voting rights, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals struck key provisions of North Carolina’s discriminatory Voter ID law. The court said, “The new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision” and “impose cures for problems that did not exist.” Echoing decisions in previous cases, such as those below, in which laws deemed to prevent alleged voter fraud were struck down, the judge went on to note that, “the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation” of disenfranchising minority, mostly democratic voters.

Following the decision, at least one political candidate tried to stoke fears about how this recent victory for democracy might affect the November presidential elections, raising unfounded assertions about the possibility of people voting 10 times. In fact, studies have shown that the type of voter fraud that is supposed to be addressed by voter ID laws doesn’t exist. One study found that out of one billion votes cast, only thirty-one showed evidence of voter impersonation. Likewise, there is absolutely no evidence that multiple voting will occur, and there are already safeguards in place against such fraud short of the modern-day poll tax that was attempted in North Carolina.

Fortunately for America, we know better than to believe soundbites that would conveniently have us deny the right to vote to our fellow citizens. Our democracy depends fundamentally on protecting everyone’s right to vote, and these recent court decisions are the next logical step in our way toward a more perfect union, following hard-fought battles of the suffragettes and the Civil Rights movement to ensure the right to vote for all Americans.

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Voter Protection

Photo by David Sachs, SEIU, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act tomorrow, it would be natural to assume that securing the right to vote for people of color could be crossed off America’s to-do list. Instead, it has become clear that the law’s roots are beginning to wither, threatening the integrity of the principles on which our democracy was founded.

A Problem in Need of a Solution
In 1870, the 15th amendment to the United States Constitution ensured (male) citizens of their right to vote regardless of their “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” It gave Congress the power to enforce the right. Nevertheless, for the next 95 years, some states imposed hurdles such as literacy tests and poll taxes to prevent African-Americans, not to mention Latinos, Native Americans and other people of color, from exercising their right to vote. When those tactics failed, law enforcement looked away—or tacitly sanctioned—threats, intimidation and actual violence against non-whites trying to vote.

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The Supreme Court delivered a victory to representative democracy today, ruling in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission that under the Constitution’s Elections Clause, an independent body, and not only a state legislature, has the power to create voting districts.

In 2000, the people of Arizona voted by referendum to create an independent redistricting commission to draw voting districts, taking the process away from the legislature and outside of the political pulls associated with redistricting efforts. The Arizona legislature sued to overturn the results of the referendum in order to regain its authority to draw voting districts.

Today’s decision ensures that independent commissions remain an option in the fight to eliminate partisan gerrymandering and begins to reverse the trend in which “representatives choose their voters instead of voters choosing their representatives.” For too long, the United States’ inability to address political gerrymandering has sullied our reputation as a standard bearer of democracy.

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