This report is a highly useful summary of key legal milestones in the long, winding, arduous road toward universal voting rights for all qualified American voters. We have long paid a terrible price for sliding into the partisan practice George Washington warned us about in his Farewell Address. But that is where we have been ever since he left office.
The authors start out by positing the question, Who are the people and to whom is the right to vote extended. That is, indeed, the right question. The answer has been a moving target.
The tale is a sad one, accented along the way with manipulation by those who believe they are superior to everyone else in managing the Nation’s affairs. Challenges to their power are viewed as evil attacks on their ideological fortresses. There is more along this line, of course, but we all know that litany.
My focus is on the conclusion. Here are some key points I get from it.
At issue is how we eliminate barriers to voting in achieving “equal voting rights for all.” It took us until 1924 to get there legally and we are still struggling to make the fact real. That tells us something about the real world as well as the robed halls of jurisprudence.
Two broad categories of cases inform the situation: 1) white primary cases, aimed at disenfranchising poor and (mainly) black voters by arbitrary rules, and 2) malapportionment cases that affirm “voter equality…as an undeniable right of citizenship.” That achievement is
diminished by large-scale exploitation of voters by the two major parties.
Two sentences leap out at me: The only [voter] status that matters is citizenship. And all citizens must be treated equally and as fully enfranchised. If you meet the basic qualifications (e.g., age and
residency) you should be allowed to vote in all phases of the election process that are funded with tax money. That is the battle we are waging in several states regarding the Presidential Preference Election.
The cases reviewed paint a picture of fractured and tortured thinking within our legal system, as manifested in various court decisions, findings, and dissents. The hope is that this report will become a useful tool in sorting all of that out, and eventually, getting clarity established by the Supreme Court.
The Democratic and Republican parties have been conducting an ongoing war on voter rights, despite their becoming universal almost a hundred years ago. I note that it took 123 years for women to gain voting rights nationwide. Maybe we can beat that record by a decade or two.
The elephant in the room is this. America is at war with itself. That is reflected in and aggressively fostered by the parties. Our Nation is bleeding from 10,000 self-inflicted cuts and the parties seem to believe that we have an unlimited supply of blood. Many other democracies are doing the same. We are just the first and most robust democratic republic on the world stage and you would think we would treat that remarkable truth with a little more respect. Our beacon of light is flickering madly in a hurricane of our own making.
Which leads me to a final point that actually appears in a potent op-ed authored by two of the three authors (Jeremy Gruber and Harry Kresky) in The Hill. Its message: be careful what you ask for. How can we insure that the voting process is not manipulated by partisan gamesmanship?
The paper’s authors, instead, ask, “How can we avoid embedding parties in the Constitution via statutes that trade piecemeal gains for long-term controlling status that was never intended and should never be granted?
The article wraps up with this: The decision in Rucho (calling cracking and packing a political issue and not a legal one) very well may be discouraging for those seeking to curb hyper-partisan gerrymandering. But changing focus to addressing party control of the electoral process in all forms will have more powerful and lasting effects.
Indeed. This insight, combined with the documentation of applicable legal history in the larger report, offers an excellent resource for those of us who are engaged in gaining unrestricted voting rights for independent voters, state by state, county by county, district by district.
It turns out, we are not just trying to protect voters from predatory parties, we are trying to protect the Constitution from them as well.
Al Bell lives in Peoria, AZ and is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona. Al is a member of Independent Voting’s Eyes on 2020 National Cabinet, working to get the 2020 presidential primaries open to independents across the country.