A question was posed to me last week, asking what I’d like to see the Biden administration do or complete before the 2024 election. I responded with a question, “Can I answer that in plural?” The person talking to me said, “No, I want to know your highest priority.” Having to state which issue mattered the most to me, I said “voting rights.”
Voting rights are basic to our democracy and are a constitutional must. In 1965, my husband and I traveled to Selma to join the march for voting rights, and memories of what happened on that bridge are still painful. Two years previously, in 1963, Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, inspiring so many of us to activism. It certainly impacted the decision of my husband and me to march in Selma. I remember, too, how dedicated our fellow marchers were. We were led by John Lewis, who later became a longstanding member of Congress. We were impassioned, and we felt assured our efforts would succeed. Unfortunately, on Bloody Sunday in 1965, many patriots were injured and some slaughtered for this effort.
Some two years later, in 1965, a Voting Rights bill was enacted with overwhelming support. Although the road to this success was dreadful, many of us felt great satisfaction. Our expectation was that this law would be in effect for all time.
Fast forward to today, and here we are fighting the same battle over fair and equal access to vote. Many state legislatures, predominantly in Southern states, have passed bills that skirt the legality of the Voting Rights Act. Establishing unrealistic obstacles to voting for certain groups of people is one way this is accomplished. Polling places for people of color are often located as far as 50 miles away from where they reside. Restrictive balloting rules and adding rigid qualifications for proof of identification are other ways people of color are disproportionately impacted.
Finally, this year in June, even our conservative-leaning Supreme Court stepped up. They could not tolerate an outrageous gerrymandering bill from Alabama. They voted against the state of Alabama in the Allen v. Mulligan lawsuit.
Unfortunately, efforts at the state level limiting voting rights mesh with Trump’s efforts to undermine the legitimacy of elections and discourage those who do not support him from voting. For me, the Supreme Court’s decision in the Alabama case is a glimmer of light in the dark tunnel of Trump’s rise and a possible beacon of justice in future court decisions dealing with voting rights.
Perhaps the recent indictments against Trump and his minions will allow us to look to a future that incorporates positive change and the democratic principle of access to equal justice for all.
My plea is that all citizens have the unfettered opportunity to exercise their right to vote in free and fair elections and that the leaders we vote for be clear-thinking people of integrity.