Tag Archives: 1965 Voting Rights Act

Vote Like It Counts

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One of the many elements that came out of the 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” was a loud call for the United States to honor its commitment to voting.  People here often don’t think much about it, but voting is a critical factor in any democracy.  If you look at what’s happening in Syria right now, I’m certain a number of that country’s citizens wish they had the luxury of just voting, or impeaching, Bashar al-Assad right out of office.

A positive effect of the March on Washington was the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed that the U.S. would uphold that right for every proper citizen to cast one vote for the candidate of their choice.  It struck down poll taxes and literacy tests; measures often used, particularly in the Southeast, against non-Whites and poor people.  Why don’t people take this seriously?

I’m especially concerned after a report showing my beloved home state of Texas ranks 51st, after the District of Columbia, in voter turnout.  On average, declares the Texas Civic Health Index, only about a third of eligible voters in the nation’s second-most populous state make a concerted effort to vote.  I think that explains why Texas looks to be a blood-red bastion of far-right lunatics.  It’s why Rick Perry has been able to hold onto the governorship like the Pope and why Ted Cruz easily won a Senate seat last year, despite his extremist views.

The state’s Democratic Party hopes to turn its political establishment a striking royal blue.  I personally don’t want to see Texas metamorphose into another California or Illinois where extreme taxation and heavy regulations drive away businesses.  But, I definitely don’t want it to remain mired in crimson red.  A nice fuchsia would be more palatable, but I’m not a color maven.

The study noted – not surprisingly – that people with higher levels of education are more likely to vote.  Thus, it recommended improving civic literacy through education, starting at the grade school level.  But, recent cuts by the Texas legislature in education funding may make that challenging.  Conservative state officials moved Heaven and Earth to ban abortion, but don’t have too much concern for those children once they reach school.  Hence, the need for voting.

It’s actually an embarrassment.  I’ve made a concerted effort to vote in every major state and national election since 1992.  Obviously, I haven’t always seen the results I’d like – but, at least I tried to make a difference.

Low voter turnouts appears to be a national trend.  Last year only some 57.5% of eligible voters made it to the polls; lower than in the 2 previous elections, but surpassing the dismal rate of 54.2% set in 2000.  Critics at the time liked to point out that more people voted in “American Idol” than in the 2000 presidential elections.  When you realize that, in 2012, Mexican voters turned out at a rate of 62.45% – despite the omnipresent threats of violence and endemic corruption – it certainly speaks poorly of Americans.

Voting is like budgeting: you just can’t let things go and hope for the best.  It requires work and patience.  It’s what any civilized society – not just the United States – is all about.  It’s the foundation of democracy.  It really does count.

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Stupid Quote of the Week #1

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“Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this.  I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement.  It’s been written about.  Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.”

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, during oral arguments about the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing the Act because of a lawsuit brought by Shelby County, Alabama.  Attorneys for Shelby County claim that the Act has essentially worn out its welcome because the nation has a biracial president and plenty of non-Caucasians in positions of power.  If it isn’t for the fact that the state of Alabama has a vitriolic history of voter suppression and intimidation, the lawsuit might have some validity.  But, the images of White police officers beating Black people protesting for their right to vote keeps swinging through my mind.  Despite the election of Obama, some Republican-dominated districts have made an attempt in recent years to reconfigure some areas that could ensure GOP wins.  Many of these areas are in the Southeastern U.S. where – if anyone has done their research – racial discrimination was more entrenched just a half century ago.  Selma, Alabama is the site of one of the most vicious attacks on unarmed citizens by police in U.S. history.

It doesn’t surprise me that Scalia would make such a statement.  As far as I know, he’s never experienced firsthand the feeling of a water hose against his face just because he wanted to be treated as a human being.  Then again, neither have I.  But, the Voting Rights Act and its predecessor, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, were meant to ensure that.  I guess Scalia – sitting up on his ivory throne – still hasn’t figured that out.

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