The most popular proposal is to give everyone 16 and up the right to vote. In the United States, 16-year-olds are working full-time, paying taxes and driving, so why not voting? And most live with their families, which may be a better time for them to cast their first vote — rather than when they’re in the midst of major life transitions a few years later. In countries like Scotland and Austria, where 16- and 17-year-olds can vote in some or all elections, the teens vote at higher rates than their slightly older cohorts — and research shows voters who begin earlier stick with the habit. Civically engaged teenagers at home might even boost the participation of parents and other family members. Enfranchising more young people could also combat what writer Astra Taylor has termed the “gerontocracy”: a generational cohort making long-term policy they won’t be around to deal with.
Washington DC — Community organizers and faith leaders from 33 States converged on the U.S. Capitol to demand passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4) and the Build Back Better Bill (H.R. 5376), now pending Senate approval. They chastised West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin for his role in delaying passage of the legislation which would provide protection for voting rights and financial relief for millions of impoverished Americans. Reverend William Barber called out Senator Joe Manchin by name for playing a “trick” on his constituents by delaying a vote in the Senate on the voting rights bill. Barber said that by delaying the vote until March it would give State legislatures time to gerrymander districts and allow passage of more restrictive voting laws.
Delilah Pierre first got involved with the Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC) in 2019, during a campaign to stop the capital city from building a new police headquarters in the same shopping center as the only grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Today, as Vice President of the grassroots organization, she has her sights set on taking down larger forces: A state law that levels felony and misdemeanor charges against protesters like her, and prevents them from posting bail until their first court appearance. Governor Ron DeSantis signed Florida House Bill 1, the Combating Public Disorder Act—also known as the "anti-riot" bill—into law in April, following Senate approval along party lines.
On Monday August 2, 2021, Reverend William Barber II walked alongside Jesse Jackson leading several thousand on a revival of that same moral imperative. Their Moral Monday March was to demand that Congress restore the Voting Rights Act, signed by President Johnson on August 8, 1965, by passing the For The People Act, legislation which will strike down at the Federal level, all new voting restrictions passed in States like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Arizona.
Activists with the national Poor People's Campaign were arrested Wednesday after blocking a street in front of the Hart Senate building in Washington, D.C. to demand passage of the For the People Act, a popular voting rights expansion bill that Republicans successfully filibustered just 24 hours earlier. After rallying in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, hundreds of low-wage workers, faith leaders, and advocates—including residents of West Virginia, Kentucky, and several other states—marched to the nearby Senate building to demand meetings with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), two key opponents of the For the People Act.
An advocacy group for Native Americans is putting up billboards in various states to oppose measures that it says would increase voting restrictions. The campaign launched by the Global Indigenous Council comes as more state legislatures are considering voting laws like the one in Georgia that sparked corporate backlash. Tom Rodgers, president of the Global Indigenous Council and an enrolled Blackfeet tribal member, said the goal of the campaign is to draw attention to bills that would limit the number of available polling stations and ballot drop-off spots, calling the measures especially harmful to Native Americans who may not have access to the remaining voting locations.
For Regina Root, 53, the journey to suing Virginia’s election officials began during the state’s nomination contest in June when the university professor cast her ballot in person before the voting day to avoid potential crowds at her polling place. The brain surgery that saved Root’s life left her with impaired vision and her election office lacked a machine that would allow her to cast her vote without relying on her husband. “I thought wait, this doesn’t make sense. I can vote on my own. I have a PhD,” said the Williamsburg, Virginia, resident.
In 1787, the Founding Fathers wrestled over how to address suffrage in the U.S. Constitution. At the time, voting was restricted to wealthy white landowners. The framers debated whether it should be extended to commoners who had joined arms with them in the American Revolution, but who might overrule their interests. Ultimately, the question was punted to the states in Article I, Section 4, of the Constitution, which declares: “The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations.” By not giving U.S. citizens an explicit constitutional right to vote, the Founding Fathers effectively decoupled voting rights from citizenship and denied those whom states barred from voting any recourse through the federal government.
Robert Peoples remembers when African Americans won the right to vote in Alabama back in 1965. Though he was only 13 years old at the time, he had grown up in Mobile with a front-row seat to history as it was forged by a generation of ordinary Alabamians who won extraordinary political changes during the Civil Rights Movement. He knows how much was sacrificed and how much was gained, but that was another day. Today, more than 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Robert Peoples cannot vote in the state of Alabama.
The Supreme Court all but guaranteed that nearly 1 million Floridians will be unable to vote in the 2020 election because of unpaid court debts in a shattering order handed down on Thursday. Its decision will throw Florida’s voter registration into chaos, placing a huge number of would-be voters in legal limbo and even opening them up to prosecution for casting a ballot. The justices have effectively permitted Florida Republicans to impose a poll tax in November. Florida’s ex-felons have a right to vote under both the state and federal constitutions. In 2018, a supermajority of residents approved a constitutional amendment that abolished a Jim Crow-era law permanently disenfranchising convicted felons. GOP lawmakers promptly sabotaged this amendment by passing a law that compelled formerly incarcerated people to pay all fines and fees associated with their sentence. Florida imposes a mind-boggling array of fees on defendants to fund its criminal justice system, and the new law would disenfranchise almost a million of the roughly 1.4 million voters who were poised to regain their voting rights.
A federal court on May 24, 2020 ruled that a Florida law that created wealth-based hurdles to voting is unconstitutional. The decision restores voting rights to hundreds of thousands of people with past criminal convictions. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle found that conditioning voting on payment of legal financial obligations a person is unable to pay violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating on the basis of wealth. The court's decision implements Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to more than a million people who had completed the terms of their sentence including parole or probation.
TALLAHASSEE, FL — The Florida Supreme Court’s advisory opinion does not — indeed, cannot — alter what the U.S. Constitution requires. A federal court has already held that the state cannot deny people the right to vote because of their inability to pay financial obligations. The U.S. Constitution also prohibits making voting rights contingent on the payment of taxes, and it requires Florida to provide due process to citizens before taking their voting rights away.
Despite research documenting the serious problems they present for voting rights, aggressive purges of the voting rolls continue to be proposed in advance of the 2020 elections, with some of them considered for Southern states. According to a recent analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 17 million people were purged from voting rolls nationwide between 2016 and 2018, with racial minorities hit hardest. While states have a legitimate interest in keeping their voting rolls updated, doing so through wholesale purges close to elections risks barring qualified voters from casting ballots.
This week was called by Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS) to be Unchain the Vote Week focused on bringing attention to the unconstitutional, dehumanizing act of felony disenfranchisement that plagues 48 of the 50 United States. During this week outside organizers hosted and attended events in solidarity with inside organizers’ call. One of the events I attended was the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights Symposium, The Road to Re-Enfranchisement: Advancing Rights Restoration. The event was a closed invite only collaboration between New York and New Jersey attended by aligned organizations across the country including grassroots organizers like Initiate Justice, Emancipation Initiative and Millions for Prisoners (all of which are apart of the Right2Vote Campaign) as well as larger organizations like Demos, the Vera Institute and Common Cause.