THERE IS A CLEAR NEED TO EXAMINE THE PROGRESSIVE SUFFRAGE LEADERSHIP OF VERMONT AND MAINE.

 

IN CONGRESS, I WILL BRING TO THE FLOOR CONSIDERATION FOR FEDERALLY PROTECTED VOTING RIGHTS FOR OUR COUNTRY'S INCARCERATED CITIZENS.

Currently in Congress:

The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 (the Act) was introduced by Rep. Sewell, Terri A. [D-AL-7] 02/26/2019 and passed the House 12/06/2019.

 

THE ACT seeks to overturn the 2013 Supreme Court decision in the case of Shelby County v. Holder. A ruling that allowed nine states, mostly in the south, to change their election laws without advance Federal approval.

The 2013, 5-4 ruling, in-line with the conservative make-up of the court, was a win for states’ rights and representative of state sentiment: wanting to be free from Federal oversight —oversight that was not shared by all states.

 

This new Act may languish in the more conservative US Senate and may be perceived as more partisanship that has stifled much of the productivity in Congress. Surely the nine recently freed states see the bill as imposing, penalizing and regulatory; or worse, antithetical to the spirit of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Rather than seeking to represent district realties, or demonstrating some leadership, or responsiveness to voter disenfranchisement; this 2019 attempt at amending the 1965 legislative opus, born out the civil rights movement, is another example of a House that just can’t seem build effective bi-partisan coalitions, or inspire the will of the people, or conjure the American spirit of justice.

How the act will come out of the Senate is not promising, but more importantly, it is a missed opportunity to change the dialogue on voting rights and introduce progressive solutions for more equitable outcomes for the people.

As states adopt policies with national implications, it is up to our elected officials to:

  • Bridge the waters between the early and late adopters

  • Foment policy that is the most beneficial for the nation, as a whole

  • Recognize change and champion the best outcome

 

Maine and Vermont lead our county in progressive voting rights, allowing prison inmates and parolees to vote. Other states have also taken progressive measures to provide more citizens their rightful access to the ballot box.

We already know that increasing participation or the sample size of a population in any measure of opinion helps to reduce bias; a concept which should be central to this legislation.

Given our understanding of disproportionate sentencing and evolving state cannabis laws, it seems to me that revisiting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in 2019-20 would include the same spirit of civil rights that is responsible for the 1965 Act’s existence; the same courage.

When will Federal legislation reflect the ambition of so many states to normalize rights for all Americans? When will Federal legislation capture the true American spirit? When do we begin the New American Century?

As congressman, I will support progressive efforts to protect the voting rights of all Americans and introduce legislation for the suffrage of incarcerated citizens.

Tomorrow comes today!

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