Ask anyone what they think their greatest right is for having a voice in our country. Some may quote the First Amendment, saying its "freedom of speech", or "freedom of the press", or the right "peaceably to assemble" or "petition the government for a redress of grievances" (whether via phone, mail, or direct protest). I submit that the greatest right we have for speaking our voices is the right to vote.
What is both sad alarming, though, is the capriciousness with which that right is treated. How is it that states can deny someone this most basic right after being convicted of a felony, even after "paying their debt to society"? Where is that
in the Constitution?
Women and non-white males were not afforded that right initially, and required changes to our Consitution. It wasn't until 1920 and the 19th Amendment that women got the right to vote. And it wasn't 1964 and the 24th Amendment that everyone was given freedom from poll taxes designed to deny that right to poor (black)
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 any poll tax or other tax.
In retrospect, the amendment should have ended at "or any state". It is the poll tax aspect that has allowed states run by Republicans to use "voter ID" laws to disenfranchise poor voters, most of whom tend to vote Democratic. The situation in Wisconsin is a perfect example of this
Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's administration is moving forward with a plan that would close as many as 10 driver's license offices only months before a new law will require voters to present a photo ID before casting a ballot.
On May 25, Walker signed the voter photo ID bill which mandates voters present a driver's license, state ID, military ID, passport, naturalization papers or tribal ID before casting their ballots.
Democratic Wisconsin state Rep. Andy Jorgensen told The Associated Press that Walker appeared to be targeting Democratic districts with his decision to shut down 10 Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices.
But Walker's administration has denied the decision was political, saying the closures were part of an effort to expand operating hours at other DMV offices.
Those "other DMV offices" are in Republican districts. These laws pass constitutional muster because a person can get a voter ID free of charge. Of course - they need to be able to get to the office and fill out the paperwork, and then there's the burden of proof to get the ID in the first place.
These tactics are similar to those used by Kathleen Harris of Florida in the 2000 election to purge blacks (Democrats) from the voter rolls, thus denying them the right to vote, and tipping Florida far enough in the direction of George Bush to affect a win in that state. Florida is also one of those states that denies the right to vote to the aforementioned felons, and that was the rationale used to purge the rolls in the first place. If the state could not deny them that right, then they would not have an excuse to purge them from the rolls.
Perhaps it's time for a Constitutional amendment to address those pesky extra words in the 24 Amendment:
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, abridged, or hampered by the United States or any state for any reason.