Voting in America is far from guaranteed
The Efforts to Curtail Voting Rights
By Jones William and D.S. Mitchell
Voting is fundamental to our democracy. The right to vote however has been the target for disenfranchisement since the founding of the country. Our Constitution (before amendments) does not clearly stipulate who can vote. In the early years state legislators voted for the president.
The Constitution has had many amendments
From the beginning many of the states used every means available to limit voting. At the origin of the United States, many groups, including slaves, landless white men, women and free blacks could not vote. But many amendments to the Constitution (XV, XVII, XIX, XXIII, XXIV, XXVI) significantly expanded voting rights and other political freedoms to previously unprotected groups.
Voting Rights Act of 1965
The passage of multiple constitutional amendments was geared towards enhancing voting rights for all citizens. The federal government was spearheading the expansion of voting rights throughout the United States. Numerous states, particularly the states of the old confederacy, habitually passed laws that did not specifically bar black citizens from voting but placed unrealistic burdens on them. Poll taxes and “guess how many beans are in the jar” kinds of absurdities. For that reason, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was introduced and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law.
Expand or Contract Participation
The Supreme Court is the friend of big business.
The aim of the 1965 Act was to abolish legal barriers established at local and state levels that were specifically aimed at barring African-Americans from participating in the election process. People of color have had to battle the governments of many states to guarantee their right to vote. In 2013, the Supreme Court abolished an important part of the Voting Rights Act, which required states with racial discrimination history to get the consent of the DOJ before making changes to their state voting rules. Since the weakening of the original law, southern states have gone back to their old ways. As a result, politicians in many states have gone on a new offensive to suppress the right’s of voters through meddling with 1) the Electoral College, 2) passing unnecessarily strict voter identification laws and 3) partisan gerrymandering 4) purging of the voter rolls.
1) Electoral College
“The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect a President. Each state’s entitled allotment of electors equals the number of members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two for each state Senator.” Wikipedia
Electoral College=Voter Suppression
The founding fathers of our nation designed the Electoral College (EC). One main reason for its creation was to prevent the direct election of the president by popular vote. Quite honestly, the founding fathers feared the mindlessness of the uneducated “mob”. They feared an oppressor could exploit the (stupid) public and a demagogue would come to power. In fact, according to Wikipedia, “The Electoral College serves as a compromise between the election of the president by a vote in Congress and choice of the president by a popular vote of “qualified citizens”. The founders believed that it would be better for a president to be elected by the popular vote of “qualified citizens”, thus the Electoral College. Most Americans do not understand the Electoral College and its role. Basically, the founding fathers designed the voting system so that the “masses could not have their way” with the government. The founders were no where close to seeing one-person, one-vote as necessary, or desired.
Changing the Plan
The federal government has pushed for voter’s rights while states have held to old behaviors
Even though many Americans trust the Electoral College to give them the most suitable president, the institution currently suffers manipulation. Forty eight of the 50 states give all the votes to popular vote winner. However, two small states, Nebraska and Maine, allocates two electoral votes to the popular winner of the statewide popular vote, and then one apiece to the winner of each congressional district. Unfortunately, many Republican legislators around the country are proposing to follow the Maine and Nebraska strategies. This idea is to mandate electoral votes allocated by congressional district mainly in states where Republicans fear they will lose the statewide popular vote. If a candidate wins big in one part of the state but loses the state he (or she) will at least get one vote. If they manage this feat, it will dramatically change the way presidents are elected.