By Bob Lowerre
A nation such as ours is made up of many parts. Few would disagree, however, that its life blood is voting by its people.
As we formed the United States after the American Revolution, voting was often a subject of controversy. It has surely not always been a universal right.
There have been times, particularly in our earlier days, when suffrage was limited to what was the aristocracy -- those who had property. Many of our founders were definitely of the upper class. It took years before common folks generally obtained the right to vote.
During much of our history, the fair sex couldn't vote. It required a long struggle before the franchise was extended to women. It took an amendment to the Constitution to accomplish it.
Notwithstanding a Constitutional amendment providing for it, blacks were excluded from the polls in much of the nation, including Virginia, until relatively recently. It was done by the poll tax -- and sheer terror. One of the historic accomplishments of the civil rights movement was passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1964. It continued to guarantee access to the voting booth for minorities until it was recently, in effect, abolished by a one-member majority of the U.S. Supreme Court. The court is one of the few major institutions in America that seems to think the racial problems of this country are all behind us.
Gradually, great progress has been made in expanding one of the primary rights of our citizens -- to vote. The former plots used to deprive people of access to the ballot now seem quaint, and truly outrageous. Today, however, a new and equally deplorable barricade to voting has been erected.
At this stage of the 21st century, it defies belief that one of our major political parties has carried out a well-coordinated nationwide drive to prevent citizens from voting. Most states with a Republican-dominated legislature and a Republican governor have enacted laws requiring people to present photo IDs to vote. Further, they have passed various other measures repealing laws that had made it easier for people to vote. These efforts have a fancy name -- "voter nullification." It simply means preventing people from voting.
Research establishes that groups that strongly vote Democratic - minorities and the less fortunate, for example -- are less likely to have a photo ID than others. Since the GOP of late has largely failed to win most national and state-wide elections, what a happy solution to their problem to just eliminate many of the voters who oppose them!
Of course, the excuse trotted out for this nationwide conspiracy was to eliminate voting fraud. The problem was, and is, that no evidence of any nationwide epidemic of voter fraud exists. The day is long past when a Virginia Democrat might ask to be buried in Chicago so he could continue his political activities. It is reported that in two states where voter nullification is being challenged in the courts, defendant governments, when asked by a judge to produce evidence of fraud, could not offer a single example. In some states, the courts have already thrown out these measures.
The intent of this massive effort being carried out from coast to coast is obvious. The legislator in charge of the photo ID bill in Pennsylvania declared, on its enactment, that the GOP had just won the presidential election in that state. He was wrong, but his objective was clear. Here, one of the sponsors of this disgraceful scheme is our own Republican State Sen. Mark Obenshain.
The Republican Party was, of course, disappointed in losing many recent elections in states such as Virginia. The tried and true political solution to such disappointments is to present voters with more appealing candidates and policies. The GOP took an easier route. There's not even a hint of shame in a party that has implemented a game to gain political advantage by depriving countless thousands of its fellow citizens of one of the most fundamental rights of those living in a great democracy.
Bob Lowerre is a retired lawyer living in Woodstock