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Monday, May 21, 2012

Voting Rights - What I Learned from Andrea Mitchell

I'm impressed by the video on MSNBC where news journalist Andrea Mitchell promotes reducing barriers to voting rights. She speaks about the importance of supporting voters rights and opposes exclusions called for by "some political parties and interest groups".  I'm wondering if Ms. Mitchell speaks for many of her colleagues in her video.

Esquire's political blog asks Ms. Mitchell to clarify who or what she speaks about when calling for inclusiveness. This debate caused me to seek more info.

Charles P. Pierce writes, "There is only one political party working to keep people from voting". In other words, he asks Ms. Mitchell to be specific about what political forces are working against her point of view."

I learned the right to vote is not exclusive, but, rather, the way qualified citizens are provided access to voting is a state by state issue. Although the US Constitution prohibits barriers to voting based upon religion, sex or other caveats, the States can (and some do) create exclusionary processes, like proof of citizenship.

Americans have fought very hard for voting rights - it's was not a given right of citizenship. Women organized themselves to obtain the right to vote. Likewise, Racial minorities received a Constitutional amendment to be assured the right to vote.

Pierce writes April 30th in his blog: "Back in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer, volunteers were deeply schooled in the various regulations and tactics used to deprive African Americans of their right to vote, and how those regulations and tactics differed from county to county, city to city and, often, sheriff to sheriff. Now, the basic goals of these laws are the same everywhere they've been passed, but they differ just enough in the different states that the people attempting to blunt their effects have to be made aware of every local subtlety...."

Right wing conservatives tend to be strict constructionists about the US Constitution. They believe every word of it as written.  Therefore, the idea that conservatives should tamper with voting language for the presumed purpose of skewing the demographics of the electorate is yet another example of the hypocrisy within their ranks. Right wing extremists and strict conservatives either believe in the US Constitution and voting rights, as written and ratified, or they don't.  

Democrats and Progressive groups believe in eliminating all barriers to voting rights while many Republicans and Right Wing Extremists advocate for process barriers.

Voting rights is an example of "what goes around comes around" issue.  By restricting people from voting, the political issues will eventually turn against the exclusionary group.  Excess access to voting, however, can lead to voter fraud.  Changing any voting laws will eventually backfire on the group perpetrating the cause.

Rather, Secretary of States should be charged with eliminating voter fraud, as recent information in Florida found 53,000 dead people listed on voting rosters.

Ms. Mitchell's video supporting reducing barriers to voting rights is very likely not her "voice in the wilderness" on this issue. 

On the contrary, I suspect Mitchell speaks for many journalism colleagues - and her point of view is likely influenced by her experiences. She has reported on elections in countries where voting is not a protected right and can even be associated with the risk of personal harm.  

I'm confident Ms. Mitchell is passionate about voting rights, but I also wonder if her candor is a salient warning to right wing extremists who should pay attention to the media they selectively denigrate.

We should all learn more about voting rights and work as hard as our predecessors have done to protect them.




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