Readers Write: One man, one vote worth fighting for

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Readers Write: One man, one vote worth fighting for

In the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Democrat won garnering over 2.5 million votes more than her opponent. 
“Clinton Wins” would have been the newspaper headline if we weren’t straddled with an arcane system called the Electoral College bequeathed to us by our founding fathers who didn’t trust the common folk. 
Scholars will spend endless days trying to determine the cause of this political upset. 
Some will argue that it was FBI Director Comey’s 11th hour statement that made the difference, while others will claim that it was Hillary’s failure to address the needs of rust-belt workers. 
Whatever the explanation, there is one thing about which we can be certain. We have made it much harder for citizens to vote in this country. 
If you live in Sauk City, Wis., you need identification to vote and the nearest issuing office is open just four times a year and that’s during business hours on weekdays. 
Heaven help those who have day jobs!
When Hurricane Matthew hit Florida, more than 100,000 residents nearly lost their ability to register thanks to the inclement weather and Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s intransigence. 
It took a Brennan Center for Justice challenge to persuade a federal judge to extend the registration period. In his decision, the wise jurist declared: “ The right to vote is sacred.” 
If this is so, how can we explain the fact that in the 2012 presidential election only 53.6 percent voted and in the 2014 mid-term election the figure was a low 35 percent? 
A Pew Research Center report points out that among developed countries the U.S. lags well behind most of its peers ranking 31st among 35 comparable nations. 
We should be ashamed of these statistics. 
There has been a lot of talk this season about “rigged” elections. The fact of the matter is that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit in-person voter fraud. 
Fourteen states all have new voting restrictions in place. These range from fewer early voting opportunities to very strict voter ID requirements. 
State legislatures which determine these matters have systematically limited the franchise in what can only be described as an undemocratic attempt  to deny minorities and young people their right to vote. 
Parenthetically, it is not by chance that these policies most adversely affect persons  likely to vote for Democratic candidates. 
While the above can only be viewed as a calculated effort to alter  political outcomes, the most serious deprivation of the right to vote occurred when the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder (2013) gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 
This critical case freed nine states, mostly in the south, to change their election laws without federal approval. 
Thus, they could go back to discriminating as in the good old days of Jim Crow. 
Of course, the court split 5 to 4 along conservative and liberal lines. 
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, part of the minority, was so irate that she delivered her dissent from the bench, a most unusual practice.  
Part of her statement pointed to “racial gerrymandering” which would, again, be acceptable. 
Commenting on this controversial decision, Bill Clinton said: “A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.” 
And Melanie Campbell of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation stated that “There are no white sheets, but there are black robes in the Supreme Court who struck down Section IV of the Voting Rights Act…” 
Justice Scalia voted with the majority and his untimely death led  progressives to hope that a Clinton victory would lead to her appointing a liberal Justice to the High Court. 
This, in turn, might have led to a reversal of this heinous ruling. 
But history was not kind, and we don’t know what the future portends. 
In March of 1965, Congress was considering passage of the Voting Rights Act. 
In a speech delivered to a Joint Session of Congress, President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke these eloquent words:
“Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right…The Constitution says that no person shall be kept from voting because of his race or color. We have all sworn an oath before God to support and defend that Constitution. We must now act in obedience to that oath…We shall overcome.
The importance of the right to vote cannot be overstated. 
Brave women and men like Viola Liuzzo, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman gave their lives to extend this right. 
We honor their memory by fighting against every encroachment on the franchise and by redoubling our efforts to restore sanity to our troubled nation. 
Dr. Hal Sobel
Great Neck

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