Monday, June 8, 2015

Voting Rights Still A Partisan Topic

“The right to vote.”

These four words form the cornerstone of our democracy. The right of every citizen to have a say in the path that we follow as a nation.

One would think that this particular concept in this particular nation would rise above partisan political discord. Sadly that is not the case.

Over the course of the past few years the Republican Party has sought to use this most precious right as a means to gain political advantage. Conservative state legislatures from coast to coast have passed voter registration laws that are intended to make it more difficult to vote for those demographics that typically vote in opposition to their conservative views. They have reduced early voting hours, outlawed private voter registration campaigns, ended same day voter registration and imposed onerous voter identification parameters. All done under the false premise of eliminating voter fraud. Imagine the hue and cry if Democratic state legislatures imposed such restrictions on the right to bear arms.

Hillary Clinton returned the topic to center stage last week while attending an event in Texas. In a rare policy address Clinton railed against restrictive voting laws and suggested that all US citizens should be automatically registered to vote upon reaching their 18th birthday. She also tried to earn some political points by calling out governors Christie, Perry and Walker for passing restrictive voter registration laws.

Governor Walker, eager to score points of his own, responded: “Most Americans favor photo IDs…Secretary Clinton is out of touch with a majority of Americans.”

And so it goes.

I tend to agree with both Clinton and Walker.

I believe that the concept of automatically registering all 18 year olds to vote has validity. But that doesn’t address the millions of elderly, poor or infirmed citizens that are not properly registered.

I am also one of those Americans who believe that it is reasonable to require that a photo ID be presented in order to be able to vote. But I understand that there are millions of Americans that do not have the economic nor logistical means to acquire such and ID.

At the risk of offending the conspiracy theorists…how about a compromise. Register all the 18 year olds. Issue government paid ID cards to all the rest. There are ways to find common ground that serves all Americans.

Conservatives will complain about the cost. “Won’t such a plan be expensive?” Probably! But certainly no more expensive than what it cost for congress to take 48 separate meaningless votes on anti-abortion bills that had no chance of being signed into law.

Republicans desperately want to win the White House. Controlling the White House and both chambers of congress would enable the GOP to push through conservative legislation that has been decades in the making. Governors Christie, Perry, Walker and 16 of their colleagues believe they have the leadership skills necessary to lead their Party and the nation in this endeavor. Perhaps they could start by offering a substantive bi-partisan solution to this most worthy of issues. Find a way to enable ALL citizens to exercise their right to vote.

The demographics of this country are changing. Leading the country is about representing the rights of ALL the people. Not just the well-heeled white ones.

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