At a press conference today, a bipartisan group of legislators – including by Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) – will announce the introduction of The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 in Congress.
“We have frequently printed the word Democracy. Yet I cannot too often repeat, that it is a word the real gist of which still sleeps, quite unawakened,” wrote Walt Whitman in Democratic Vistas. “It is a great word, whose history, I suppose, remains unwritten, because that history has yet to be enacted.”
I spent hundreds of hours talking about the law on the radio this year but one question, one exchange, especially sticks out. It was this summer, a few weeks after the five conservative justices of the United States Supreme Court extinguished the heart of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. The station's host had with him a local lawmaker who supported voter identification efforts underway in her state. "If I need to show identification at a pharmacy to get cold medicine" she asked me on the air, "why shouldn't I have to show identification to vote?"
The U.S. election system is in crisis. Big-money interests dominate U.S. politics in ways unknown in other industrialized countries, with social and environmental progress often blocked by officials who cater to big donors to insure re-election funds. Incumbents are unfairly insulated by district gerrymandering and rules, which obstruct independent candidates and parties. In recent years, voters themselves have faced political and even racial obstacles in casting votes and in getting their votes counted.