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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Feingold: How to Fight Voter Suppression

From former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold’s Vox post, “Voting rights are under assault nationwide. Here’s how to protect them.“:

Our democratic legitimacy will be determined by how we respond, as a country, to the growing assault on voting rights. The successful suppression of a single vote is an assault on the citizenry as a whole; it’s an attempt to shift power away from the people and to a specific elite class. We cannot stand back and rely only on our courts to challenge every new voter suppression law. This could be our generation’s civil rights moment, our 1965, and we must rise to meet it. We need a 21st century Voting Rights Act. The onus is on us to demand one, and on Congress to pass it.

…We need a new formula. And the only one that can ensure that no voter is suppressed in America is one that covers all 50 states. Any change to voting regulations in any state should have to be reviewed and precleared. There would be no targeting of specific states and counties, in the way Shelby County invalidated, nor any benchmark in history that can become outdated. The right to vote must be sacrosanct, and that means leaving no room for voter suppression anywhere.

To make a 50-state rule effective, Congress must provide the means to enforce it. It can do so by establishing an independent Office of Voting Rights. The Trump administration makes clear why independence is so essential. In just a few months, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his DOJ have shifted to a much weaker stance towards voting rights than that taken by the Obama administration. Sessions’s DOJ, for example, reversed its position on Texas’s voter ID law, going so far as to seek dismissal of the department’s previous claim that the law was intentionally discriminatory.

…We need an office with the resources and independence to handle a 50-state caseload, regardless of the party in power. The Office of Voting Rights would exist solely to review and approve or disapprove of any proposed changes to voting rights regulations, state by state.

Feingold, who has  formed a new organization,  LegitAction, an organization focused on restoring legitimacy to our democracy, notes further:

There rightfully exists a high threshold for any law that subjects states to the oversight of Washington. Jim Crow met that threshold, the Supreme Court decided in the 1960s. The onslaught of voter suppression in the past four years should also be recognized as the emergency that it is — especially as the state-level efforts have been coupled with an executive branch intent on doubling down on such suppression. This extraordinary set of circumstances meets the criteria justifying oversight. Protecting voting rights — the vehicle through which the power of the people is exercised — must take precedent over the convenience and sovereignty of the states.

Feingold’s 50-state strategy sounds like a fresh approach to a critical problem facing the nation, and Democrats in particular. “Trump’s commission on “election integrity” may be just the first step in a White House-led assault on our most fundamental democratic right,” Feingold concludes. “At this precarious moment, the United States needs a 21st century Voting Rights Act. Every candidate for national office should be required to make public her or her position on this vital piece of legislation.”

One comment on “Feingold: How to Fight Voter Suppression

  1. Fred Hutchings on

    We are writing to you to report a cane of voter suppression. Voter suppression is a strategy to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from voting. Voter suppression attempts to reduce the number of voters who might vote against a candidate or proposition. The tactics of voter suppression range from minor changes to make voting less convenient, to physically intimidating prospective voters, which is illegal. Most of these voter suppression tactics were made illegal after the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
    This is voter suppression because it is designed to influence the outcome of an election. It is designed to prevent specific groups of people from voting. Voter intimidation is prohibited under federal law, which states that “no person. shall intimidate, threaten, coerce. any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of [that] person to vote or to vote as he may choose.” Anyone trying to keep a person from voting or to get them to vote a certain way constitutes voter intimidation, according to Election Protection, a nonpartisan voting rights coalition. Also, the city has shown deliberate indifference, a deliberate overlooking and failure to address the facts.
    Dodge City, Kan., became infamous this fall for placing its only polling location a mile away from the nearest bus stop. Although a Latino group and Lyft are pitching in to drive people to the polls this single location will suppress voting. It’s part of a trend in closing polling sites. As recently as 2002, Dodge City had multiple polling stations, according the ACLU.
    We are writing to you because of all the trouble we are having communicating our grievances with the City of Fitchburg, MA We wrote to them and we hear nothing. We wrote to the Sentinel and Enterprise, letter to the editor, and we hear nothing. I do not know to whom to tell to tell the people of Fitchburg, MA.
    We are residents of Ward 5 in the City of Fitchburg, MA. This is to complain about the Ward 5 move to Saima Park. For many of us without cars, it is very hard to get there. We believe that everyone should have the right to vote. Making the polling place so far away effectively takes that right away. Because of this distance, hundreds will not be able to vote. Just after this move happened, Ward 5 had the lowest turnout in its history. Many disabled, elderly and people without cars are not able to reach the new polling place. It is hard to believe that the City of Fitchburg, MA. with all of the resources at its disposal, cannot find a closer polling place.
    True, at the last election, the city sent out one shuttle bus. This was never advertised. So, it was used by no one. Because no one used it, it was discontinued. It makes more sense to have a central location than to send out a fleet of busses.
    We believe that the decision to move was made by people who cannot relate to others in this situation. This situation should be fixed. The polling place should be moved closer to down town. Perhaps the university, with its vast tax paid resources, could find space for its citizens to vote. If a politician wants to speak, space is found.
    After we wrote the letter to the Fitchburg City Council, we have found out that the city pays $800 per day to rent Saima Park. This is outrageous. At a time when there are empty store fronts up and down main street, you could rent one at that price for a month.
    This does not include the shuttle bus. You pay $800 to get a polling place in the middle of the woods, then you pay a lot more to get people to it.


    Lisa Parsons Fred Hutchings
    81 Snow St. 27 Congress St.
    Fitchburg, MA 01420 Fitchburg, MA 01420
    978-847-7603 978-696-5965
    nebty1@gmail.com fredhutchings27@comcast.net


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