March 25, 2015

Protecting Right to Vote Remains Critical

Taylor and Democratic Colleagues introduces Right to Vote Act

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Across the state of Wisconsin and across the country, it is fundamental that the right to vote remain sacred. For the last 50 years, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 has banned racial discrimination in voting practices by the federal government as well as by state and local governments.

It was after a century of deliberate and violent denial of the vote to African-Americans in the South and Latinos in the Southwest – as well as many years of entrenched electoral systems that shut out citizens with limited fluency in English – the VRA is often held up as the most effective civil rights law ever enacted. It is widely regarded as enabling the enfranchisement of millions of minority voters and diversifying the electorate and legislative bodies at all levels of American government.

Since 1965, Congress has reauthorized the VRA four times, most recently in 2006, when both the House and the Senate approved the measure overwhelmingly in a bipartisan manner. The 2006 reauthorization renewed several key protections, providing for language assistance, Election Day monitors, and Justice Department pre-approval of voting changes. The protections are currently set to expire in 2031.

As I am sure you are aware, the State of Wisconsin enacted in 2011, a law regulating voter identification. This highly controversial law, one of the strictest in the nation, does not further the state’s interest in promoting confidence in the electoral process, and seeks to infringe upon one of our most fundamental rights. Consistently I’ve held that its imposition would place an undue burden on voters without proper identification, and adversely affect low-income individuals.

The obstacles presented in obtaining proper identification make likely that a substantial number of the 300,000 plus voters who lack a qualifying ID will be deterred from voting, particularly those who are low income. I maintain that this is one of the most disenfranchising laws that push us back towards the Jim Crow Era. Although the Supreme Court has recently turned away a challenge to this law, let us not be temporarily satisfied with the laws lack of enforcement for the upcoming election April 7th.

 The “Right to Vote Act,” recently introduced by Sen. Jennifer Shilling is a constitutional amendment that “would clarify that a qualified elector has a fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the district in which they reside.” This resolution is in response to recent Republican proposals to limit absentee voting and eliminate same-day voter registration. It is time to stop putting up barriers and making it harder for Wisconsin citizens to vote and with bipartisan support for what should be considered a common-sense proposal, we can make it abundantly clear that every qualified person in Wisconsin has a constitutional right to cast their vote.