The headline stated, “Dems Brace for New Voting Rights Challenges.” Why is this statement just about Democrats? Voting rights are a Constitutional provision, and must be a concern for all Americans. In particular, the headline referred to the outrageous decision made by our Supreme Court which now allows Arizona and other states to set voting restrictions limiting absentee votes, polling places and times allotted for balloting. This decision almost obliterated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and it is obviously discriminatory toward our non-white, diverse population.
I have the vivid memory from my sixth grade “civics class,” learning about democracy and our government. How brilliant and fore-sighted were our founders and the authors of our Constitution! The plan was three branches of government, each with separate responsibilities, but also able to be a check on one another. It seemed ideal that the elected officials were to set aside their partisan views, and use the Constitution as their guide for decision-making. It took only a few of my young years for me to realize that non-partisan views for decisions are almost impossible. Thankfully, in past years, some elected officials and some justices of the Supreme Court have remained true to the Constitution.
During President Obama’s administration, he was tasked with selecting a candidate for the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Scalia. However, Republicans would not permit his candidate to even be reviewed, let alone voted upon. Therefore, that Supreme Court seat was left vacant until ex-President Trump appointed his first of three justices. The Supreme Court is now Republican-leaning, 6 to 3. This imbalance would be no problem if indeed the justices voted impartially, but for the most part, this is not what has happened in practice.
Partisanship has become a serious government problem stifling progress and “stalemating” many bills awaiting senatorial votes. Additionally, this uncooperative attitude on every issue has resulted in the growing number of white supremacists, along with civil unrest, bigotry, and racism. All seem to thrive in this “big lie” atmosphere of hate and lawlessness. Although every statesman must pledge an oath to respect and follow the Constitution, many have seemingly abandoned truth and their pledges.
The New York Times and Washington Post have both stated that there are 144 restrictive voting bills ready for signing in 19 states. The Supreme Court’s decision permitting Arizona to use these voting restrictions opens the door for all of the other pending bills. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution’s 15th Amendment.
Justice Alito defended the Supreme Court’s decision, stating that the restrictions would cause “a modest burden, at the most.” By contrast, when this Arizona bill was brought to the Federal Appeals Court in San Francisco, the decision was rendered “as disproportionately affecting Black, Hispanic, and Native American voters, in violation of the Voter Rights Act, Section 2.” The provision was struck down, but then it was appealed to the Supreme Court. All I could think about when I learned of the Supreme Court’s ruling in support of Arizona’s voting bill was “Bloody Sunday” — the March to Selma, led by John Lewis, where many lost lives in their efforts to pass the Voting Rights Bill.
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, what recourse do we have when this body, “the epitome of the law” has allowed this miscarriage of justice?
There is one way this can be reversed. The legislative branch of our government has the ability to pass an all-encompassing federal law. In effect, this would supersede the Court’s ruling. This, of course, involves us —“We the People.” We must pressure Congress and remind them we are a democracy. We must demand they ensure our voting be free, secure, and equally accessible to all citizens. Every citizen should be allowed and encouraged to vote without obstacles.
Please join me in contacting and speaking out to every strata of our government — local officials, state officials, and federal officials, Democrats, Republicans, Trump-ites, and Independents.
We treasure our democracy, our diversity, and our rights under the Constitution. Let’s let them know this!
Harriet Hausman is a longtime resident of River Forest.