It’s the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and sadly, it’s no time to celebrate. Ambassador Andrew Young says that vote suppression remains a problem despite the historic legislation to prevent it.
“It is under fire. It’s more than the Voting Rights Act. Now I think it’s bad if not worse in Ohio, New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania as it is in the South. They are trying to suppress the vote of senior citizens, Black people and young people. You can vote with a gun license but you can’t vote with a student ID card. They have all kinds of efforts to keep us down,” Young said.
On the eve of tonight’s Republican presidential debate, Young says that some changes have been made as there is more awareness of the problem. But he also says that if you can get 5% of a vote in any district you can swing the election to your candidate. Unfortunately, people have to remain vigilant to ensure elections are fair, because Young does not believe the candidates will even discuss it.
“This needs to remind us that freedom is a constant struggle. And we have to be in every battle. We can’t let anybody or anything turn us around. The Drum Major Institute, which is one of the groups that spun off from Martin Luther King’s efforts in New York, we’ve been trying to fight voter ID and voter suppression. Even the [timing] of voting – I think it’s Chris Rock that said if you want to have a party and have nobody come have it on a Tuesday in November.
The thing that worries me is that if Russia and China and rogues from all over the world can crack into our security system, what’s to stop them from cracking into our voter registration files and our voting turnout. Voting the way we do it is 100 years old. I think Congress ought to take a really good look at how to fashion an all-inclusive voting system. Because democracy does work. The best ideas in this country have come from the bottom.”
With presidential elections getting less votes than American Idol finalists, it might be time to consider something like other countries do, which is to fine citizens who don’t vote. But Young says that even if you don’t get personally charged, you pay the price of not voting.
“You get fined in the U.S. But the way you get fined is them sacrificing the money for your children’s education. Your streets don’t get attention. Your garbage doesn’t get picked up,” Young says.