Friday, July 24, 2015

Turning the tide on voter suppression

Voting rights is a key issue of our time, challenging democracy and the ability of the American people to participate in the electoral process as guaranteed under U.S. law.

N.C. residents took to the streets against voter suppression.
Many states in recent years have approved rules that tamp down on the ability of particularly minority voters to make it to the polls. An ongoing federal lawsuit challenging restrictive voter suppression rules approved by North Carolina lawmakers in 2013 stands as one of the leading examples of how legislatures across the country have tried to tip the scales toward a more corporate-friendly landscape.

As part of North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory, plaintiffs are rightfully questioning the trimming or eliminating measures that had been adopted over the previous 15 years in an effort to help boost electoral participation by minority and younger voters in North Carolina.

It appears even some of the proponents of those changes have had a change of heart in regards to the provisions they enacted two years ago. Gov. Pat McCrory (R.), for instance, recently signed into law changes that lessened the identification requirements to vote.

Efforts to defeat voter suppression or even make state laws less restrictive are actually on the rise, according to a panel that discussed the issue at the Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix last week. In fact, DeNora Getachew, campaign manager and legislative counsel for the Brennan Center's Democracy Program, said four times as many bills to expand voter rights were introduced in 2014 than to restrict them.
The trends we have seen ... is that the trend is actually in favor of increasing access to voting.
Participants from Nevada, Oregon and New Mexico discussed how building coalitions were essential to their efforts either to defeat stricter voting rules or to get measures passed that made it easier for state residents to cast a ballot. And in some instances, the results were truly monumental. In Oregon, for instance, the state earlier this year approved automatic voter registration.

The Teamsters have been active for years in registering union members to vote. That is the way this country makes sure the voices of all Americans are heard. Oregon is doing that. North Carolina isn't. Others need to follow the more inclusive model.