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VOTING RIGHTS ACT & VOTER ID
Some States Discriminate Against Minorities
With the tragic slaying of African Americans in Charleston, people are becoming more aware of issues facing people of color in America. While it is good to see the Confederate flag being taken down at many state capitols, we also need to focus on the Voting Rights Act of 2015. This act is about the every day rights of people.
Historically a number of southern states discriminated against people of color. Poll taxes and voter tests were instituted to keep people of color from voting in elections. In a number of these states black citizens make up the majority of the population, so certain white individuals were afraid of giving power to the black majority. If you saw the movie, Selma, you will recall the scene where a black woman is asked numerous questions including naming all the 67 counties in the state of Alabama. No white person was ever asked these questions. There were Jim Crow Laws which separated whites and people of color. Blacks and other people of color attended separate schools and shopped at businesses who would welcome them. Eventually President Lyndon Johnson was so moved by the actions on the bridge at Selma that he initiated the process so that the Voting Rights of 1964 was finally passed by the Congress. He saw all the public support that he knew he had to act to do what was right.
In the United States Congress now there is a piece of legislation being considered called the Voting Rights Act of 2015. Section 4 of the Voting Rights of 1964 lists nine states which historically discriminated against people of color: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Parts of six other states were also involved with discrimination towards minorities: California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota. Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans were the groups who were harmed by the state laws on voting and Jim Crow Laws. The states which historically discriminated are watched by the federal government and they must abide by certain practices in order to receive federal funding.
The Voting Rights Act of 2015 restores the sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 which were struck down by the Supreme Court decision of Shelby County v. Holder on June 23, 2013. This new act includes these states: Alabama, South Carolina, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. It will be in force for 10 years if it is passed by Congress.
In Minnesota we voted down a so-called "Constitutional Amendment" calling for a voter-ID law. In fact Minnesota has one of the best election systems in the country for voter participation for it is considered a model system in this regard. Minnesota allows same day registration and various forms of proof of residency. You can use a tribal ID, college ID, state ID, driver license, have someone vouch for you who lives in your district or bring in a copy of an utility bill with your address on it. Minnesota gets wide participation and great voter turn out in many of the elections.
People of color, low income people, elderly, college students, Native Americans, military members and transgender individuals have been discriminated against by requiring photo ID. Some elderly people do not have birth certificates and it can cost $200 to get a birth certificate when you do not have one on file. Some of these individuals only have baptismal certificates to show any indication of their age. IDs can cost a lot of money in some states, so this is a barrier to minorities, low income individuals and elderly. Transgender people change appearance after surgery, so the photo ID can cause them problems. College students and Native Americans often do not have photo IDs. The college student often has a college ID and has moved from their original state. The Native American has the tribal ID which does not have a photo in some cases. Cost of regular IDs can be barrier for both groups.
The boundaries of certain districts can be changed to favor the white majority rather than having districts which have a majority of minority people in them. Polling stations get closed, so this discourages minority participation in elections. Funding for bi-lingual election materials can get cut and these cuts effect minority participation in elections. Voting guides in Spanish, Hmong and Somali are needed in some areas to foster voter participation. Other languages are dominate in other states and the bi-lingual materials are helpful to those groups of people.
The new voting rights act will address all these concerns in a fair manner. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have come out in support of this legislation. Contact your member of Congress to register your support.
In India the Brits oppressed the Indians, but Gandhi and others stood up for human rights and fairness. Many people worldwide joined the movement. Justice is best. Injustice causes suffering to many. We must be like Gandhi. We must be the change we want to see in the world.
JAI SHRI VOTING RIGHTS! JAI SHRI MA! JAI SHRI GANDHI!