On November 7, 2000, all eyes turned to Florida, where a weeks-long recount and a court fight that would go to the United States Supreme Court were just beginning. None of us can forget the butterfly ballots and the hanging chads; the injustice that some votes were counted, while others, for no good reason, were not; the thousands of African Americans, eligible to vote in Florida, discovering that they had been “mistakenly” removed from the voter rolls; the untold instances of administrative error or intentional misuse of the law that resulted in the denial of the right to vote. My own family experienced one such story. While I was serving as the manager of Vice President Al Gore’s campaign, my sister, a Florida resident, was a target of voter suppression. When she went to vote, poll workers asked her—unnecessarily and illegally—for multiple forms of ID and proof of residency. That winter, after the Supreme Court decided our election, many of us vowed never to see such injustice repeated.As we enter the 2012 election year, I fear we are dangerously close to going back on that promise. As the Voting Rights Institute of the Democratic National Committee demonstrates in the following report, a systematic, widespread and unjustified denial of the right to vote is underway in the United States. This year alone, 40 states have passed or promoted legislation that will make it harder for eligible Americans to exercise their most basic civil right. The right to vote is one for which countless Americans have struggled, fought, and even died. Nearly 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act—that landmark piece of civil rights legislation—Republicans are turning back the clock.From Texas to Wisconsin to Mississippi to Maine, Republicans have launched an assault on voting rights. Their primary aim is to ensure their reelection—at the expense of the voting rights of eligible Americans, particularly persons of limited means, minorities, young people, and our seniors. For decades, our laws have sought to expand access to the franchise; today, Republicans seek to reverse this progress. Some of the ways Republicans are trying to make it harder to vote in 2012 include penalties for conducting volunteer voter registration drives, citizenship challenges, and laws that overtly compromise the rights of students and veterans. And they’re planning more attacks on this fundamental right. It seems that no blow is too low and no trick too dirty for Republicans seeking to ensure their own victory in 2012 and beyond. Democrats have demonstrated time and again our commitment to protecting the right to vote. In 2000, we fought for the fair and equitable counting of votes in Florida. In 2004, we pushed to keep polls open in Ohio, so that no eligible person would be turned away without voting. In 2008, tens of thousands of Democratic volunteers monitored the polls, working hard to protect the right of all eligible citizens to cast a ballot.And we are even more dedicated to that goal today. I hope you will stand with us. Please start now, by reading the Voting Rights Institute’s report,
A Reversal in Progress: Restricting Voting Rights for Electoral Gain.
Vice Chair for Voter Registration and ParticipationNovember 21, 2011