Monday, July 24, 2006

Update on Voting Rights passage

An update to a post I wrote the other day: The US House of Reps last week overwhelmingly reauthorized the Voting Rights Act for another twenty-five years; but not before defeating four amendments from some of the more radical members of the elephants that would have significantly weakened the law. It was only the intervention of the GOP leadership that torpedoed the following four items:
  • Making certain provisions of the law apply to all the states, not just the South;
  • Stripping the Department of Justice of their signing off rights on redistricting plans;
  • Ending multilingual ballots; and
  • Extending the law for only 10 years, not 25.

However symbolic, the VRA is what gives people in the States the right to vote. There is actually nothing in the Constitution that says Americans have the right to vote -- it only says the vote can't be denied based on one's race, sex, inability to pay taxes or having reached the age of eighteen. However, it is well known that states in both the north and the south have used every trick in the book over the decades to deny blacks and other visible minorities, as well as the poor, the privilege of voting. In the modern age, where it's very easy to rig voting machines to ensure a perpetual Republican majority, it's an even more serious issue.

At least for once, however, both parties got it right and told the extremists to stuff it. The VRA is still a necessary safeguard and still very much needed.

Here in Canada, where ballots are counted by hand, it may not mean much; except for the fact that there's been an effort for the last few election cycles to reach out to homeless people, seniors in nursing homes and even prisoners to get them to vote. If Stephen Harper is thinking about denying the vote to any of those groups -- and you can be sure those in the so-called "religious" right would love to give the vote only to the wealthy and property owners and only men too; and putting pressure on him to do so behind closed doors -- he's going to have a revolution on his hands.

To vote for this article at Progressive Bloggers, click here.