I've always respected and admired Keith Ellison of Minnesota not just because he's a stalwart liberal always ready to take a stand against the GOP crazies, but also for doing it in spite of the underlying prejudices of some of his colleagues in Congress. Let's be blunt; it's tough to be a Muslim in today's post-911 America. And a Muslim in a position of power faces challenges that white, Christians have never had to face. It's just a fact; albeit an unfortunate one. As far as Rep. Pocan goes, I'll admit, I'm just finding out about him. But what I've seen so far... I like.
We need more congress critters like this please.
As a counterbalance to recent (and ongoing) efforts by Republicans to restrict voting rights in states all across the country, Democratic congressmen Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) are pushing an amendment that would place an affirmative right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. According to Rep. Pocan, the amendment would protect voters from what he describes as a "systematic" push to "restrict voting access" through voter ID laws, shorter early voting deadlines, and other measures to impede voting rights in many Republican-led states across the country.
“Most people believe that there already is something in the Constitution that gives people the right to vote, but unfortunately … there is no affirmative right to vote in the Constitution. We have a number of amendments that protect against discrimination in voting, but we don’t have an affirmative right,” Pocan told TPM last week. “Especially in an era … you know, in the last decade especially we’ve just seen a number of these measures to restrict access to voting rights in so many states. … There’s just so many of these that are out there, that it shows the real need that we have.”Oh, there's a need all right. A very urgent need indeed.
The story comes from Talking Points Memo (TPM)
The brief amendment would stipulate that “every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.” It would also give Congress “the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.”I believe giving Congress... “the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation” is the key aspect of this proposal, and one that has been sorely missing in regards to the election process in this country. It never made sense to me that each state controls their own election process when it comes to the presidency. A national election to elect a president of all the states should be controlled by a national standard. Plain and simple.
After investigating the issue, Pocan said he and Ellison decided this type of amendment was the best way to combat measures to restrict voting access.
“Essentially, what it would do is it would put the burden on any of these states that try to make laws that are more restrictive that they would have to prove that they’re not disenfranchising a voter. Rather than, currently, where a voter has to prove they’ve somehow been wronged by a state measure,” said Pocan.
Pocan is laying blame directly at the feet of Republicans interested in influencing elections.
“I think there are a number of folks, most likely on the right, who are looking at when we have larger turnout elections, generally, I think they realize that they don’t have much control over the election,” said Pocan. “Trying to control who goes to vote is just another strategy in trying to have an electoral outcome.”When you're bereft of ideas that would actually help the American people your only course of action is to cheat in elections.
Pocan's inspiration to come up with the proposed legislation came after the NAACP's legal challenge to a photo ID bill in his state of Wisconsin by the state's governor, Scott Walker. The challenge was successful due to a guarantee of the right to vote in Wisconsin's Constitution. He joined with Ellison who himself had taken up a push for the affirmative right to vote started by former representative Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois.
I somehow missed their announcement of their proposed legislation back on May 13th. According to Pocan, there is no current counterpart pending in the U.S. Senate.
There will be a long, hard road to getting the amendment approved. In the more than two centuries of American government, only 27 amendments to the Constitution have been approved though thousands have been discussed.Any amendment to the U.S. Constitution needs to get the support of two-thirds of both houses of Congress before it goes to the states for ratification. Three-quarters of the state legislatures must approve the amendment in order for it to be ratified. There is another way of amending the Constitution but it requires an Article 5 Constitution Convention called by at least two-thirds of state governments, and then approved by three-quarters of the states. This process has never been used to amend the Constitution and if chosen would be the more difficult of the two processes.
The two congressmen know how difficult this endeavor will be. But the fact that they're willing to try is testament to both their sense of true patriotism, and the severity of the problem. Pocan didn't say whether he believes the amendment will pass in the House. Or even if John Boehner would even bring it to the floor for a vote.
“I think we need to start the conversation about this and then that’s hopefully what we’re doing,” Pocan said. “There’s a couple major Supreme Court decisions we’re expecting this summer around voting rights, but clearly it’s an organized attempt state-by-state to pass these more restrictive laws. …. Even though Wisconsin has that protection a lot of other states don’t, so we really need to have it in the U.S. Constitution.”The congressmen are "just in the process of gaining co-sponsors” for the legislation. Both are optimistic about getting bipartisan support.
“I don’t think this is a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. I mean I just think this is a fairness issue and it’s an issue about our democracy,” Pocan said. “I hope we could get anyone to look at this and see that this is a common sense approach.”Please support both these two veritable statesmen in any way you can. Rep. Mark Pocan can be reached here. And Rep. Ellison can be reached here.
Show them some love.
We can make a difference.