Friday, July 12, 2013

Breaking Barriers to the Ballot

“. . . the right to vote is too precious, too fundamental to be so burdened or conditioned." - From Harper, et al. v. Virginia Board of Elections, et al., decision of Mar. 14, 1966 (Evelyn Thomas Butts and her suit to end Virginia’s Poll Tax)  
 “. . . a law which burdens a citizen from access to the franchise is a wall that must come down.” -Judge Wisdom in United States v. Louisiana 

The Casted Votes Felt Around The World. . . 
Do you remember that Tuesday night in November 2008, when the majority of the people in our country voted for Barack Hussein Obama, the first person of color elected as President of the United States of America? The world felt smaller, more connected, and united. The record voter turnouts revealed that many Americans, who had not previously voted, exercised their right to vote. Many people and countries around the world celebrated with us. Our accomplishment of electing an African American as the President of the United States was empowering and demonstrative of a well-functioning representative democracy; when citizens vote, they are able to affect great change! The power of our individual votes had been collectively felt around the world. 

Our Country’s Founding Principle: A Representative Democracy 
Our country’s recent celebration of 237 years of independence is a noteworthy reminder of how much of our country’s origin and evolution is grounded upon our fundamental civil right to vote for our elected representatives. Each eligible citizen participates equally by casting one vote. In the early American political system, the right to vote was reserved for white males over the age of 21 who owned land. In 1920, after the passage of the 19th Amendment, it was extended to women nationwide. In 1868, the right to vote was technically extended to African Americans with the passage of the 14th Amendment (and subsequent constitutional amendments) that was effectively enforced only with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And, in 1971, Congress lowered the legal voting age to 18. Of course, in all but two states, this can be totally irrelevant if you are an ex-felon, even if you have completed your sentence. 

Your Ability to Exercise Your Fundamental Right to Vote Is Under Attack. . . 
The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has opened the door for states to enact restrictive voter laws that effectively discourage or prevent participation, which disproportionately impacts people of color and the poor. These potential laws include strict photo identification laws, English language-only ballots, and elimination of early voting [i]. 

We Need Your Help To Ensure Everyone Can Freely Exercise The Right to Vote 
The Trinity UCC Justice Watch team is in the early stages of developing an actionable strategy to begin the fight for everyone’s right to vote. Even while these plans are being formalized, you can begin to fight right now! 
  • Sign this petition,, to get a constitutional amendment passed that guarantees voting rights for every American 
  • Write letters of support to your congressman and state representatives to demand legislation that assures full democratic participation; find them here 
  • Stay vigilant and politically informed of efforts to enact voter registration laws and voter suppression throughout the U.S. Be sure to follow Trinity UCC on Twitter and “friend” us on Facebook and share our updates with your friends! 
  • Be ready to join the B3! Project (Breaking Barriers to the Ballot!). More info to come later 
Protecting voting rights is absolutely essential to a just society. Your support is critical to protecting voting rights. 

Attorney Angela Richardson-Bryant

Trinity UCC Justice Watch Team

[i] Following the passage of Indiana's photo ID law, a dozen elderly nuns were turned away from the polls because they did not possess the required photo ID. I understand that several of them held expired photo IDs that were not sufficient under Indiana's restrictive law.  . .Beyond formal voting restrictions, in recent elections we have witnessed overt threats by armed vigilantes attempting to intimidate Hispanic voters at the polls in Arizona. We witnessed cross burnings intended to intimidate African-American voters on the eve of an election in Louisiana. We also saw organized efforts in Maryland to deceive minority and low-income voters with false information about polling locations and phony endorsements.
September 8, 2011 Testimony of Senator Dick Durbin before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights can be accessed by clicking here.

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