The word ‘democracy’ means rule by the people

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

Of the top 32 democracies in the world, the U.S. is 26th in voter turnout.*

This seems illogical and against personal best interests. We had to go to quite a bit of trouble to make ourselves free so we could vote. General election turnout of eligible voters ranges from mid-50 percents to just more than 60 percent. This means that 40 to 50 percent of us eligible voters in the U.S. don’t have a say in how we are governed.

Does this mean we don’t want to have a say? Do not understand the definition of democracy? Do not get the principle of self-governance as opposed to dictatorship, strongman leader, fascism? Have never been taught in school or in family the direct correlation between secret ballot voting and a better existence? Don’t believe our vote matters? Or…can’t even register to vote or are turned away at the polls because of subversive rules and regs.

The 2016 election fell the way it did because many Democrats didn’t vote. Their reasons ranged from not liking Hillary OR Trump or figuring that the polls told them that Hill was going to win anyway, so why bother.

But the last presidential election was also affected by changes in the 1965 Voting Rights Act, what President Lyndon Johnson said at the time was “the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice.”

Although violations of the Voting Rights Act were attempted by some states in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, it has been because of Section 5 of the Act that it was almost impossible to make new regulations inhibiting voting by certain groups. In 2006, the Voting Rights Act was reauthorized for 25 years.

Now the Act itself has broken down because of a 2013 Supreme Court decision that cancelled the most important part of the Act: Section 5 read that if a state wanted to add or alter or take away certain things from the Voting Rights Act, that state had first to clear any changes to its election procedures by going to federal officials or a federal court before it could use any of its new rules. This Section 5 had given the Act its teeth for nearly 50 years…until 2013 when Chief Justice Roberts’ court voted to get rid of the section.

Thus, there was an added factor in the general election of two years ago: 14 states scratched in new restrictive voting laws. Rules that are restrictive — meaning making it harder to vote – can demand government-issued photo IDs (which cost money and often require permanent addresses) and cuts to early voting and same-day registration. They are designed to hurt black and Hispanic areas. These are the voters who historically vote Democratic because of the platform of that party which is slanted toward working class people, poor people, health and welfare issues.

One would think the strict Constitutionalists would pay attention to Amendment 15 – “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.” And Article 24 – “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.”

Voting is a citizen’s right, a sacred right, in our democratic republic. Politicians subvert these critical amendments in our Constitution for purely political gain, never to make the country and the lives of its citizens better. Politicians’ deviousness plays on less fortunate citizens so that they eventually come to disbelieve they have any chance or reason to vote at all.
*Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

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