By Jaime R. Harrison
SCDP 1st Vice Chairman
My first political memory is sitting on the floor in front of the television watching the results of the 1984 Presidential election with my grandfather. I asked him hundreds of questions about the candidates, the White House, and past Presidents, and in his loving way, my grandfather attempted to answer each question to the best of his abilities.
Society would have classified my grandfather as a simple but hard-working man, a product of the segregated south. He didn’t have much money, he didn’t have much education, and he didn’t have a fancy job. But what he had and cherished was his dignity, his family, and his right to vote. It was a right that he didn’t always have — and sometimes didn’t even exercise. Nonetheless he felt it was a right that could not and would not be taken away from him.
The South Carolina Voter ID bill that was passed with GOP support and signed into law by Governor Haley, disenfranchised more than 180,000 South Carolina citizens, and if my grandfather was still alive it would have disenfranchised him as well (after having his leg amputated he no longer had a government issued Driver’s license).
Thanks to the efforts of the Democratic members of the Senate and House, the SC Progressive Network and others to oppose the bill on the grounds that it discriminates against minorities and seniors, the Department of Justice is asking for more information about the legislation.
As Americans – not as Democrats, nor as Republicans, but as Americans – we must keep the pressure on the DOJ, in the 60-day window we have to make sure the SC Voter ID bill is finally struck down. This bill not only affects our state but others across this nation, who are facing the same efforts to suppress voter participation.
As Americans, members of our armed forces have given their lives to help other nations realize the blessings of liberty and democracy. Politicians on both sides of the aisle applauded when Iraqi citizens were able to exercise the right to vote for the very first time. In Iraq, one woman stated that voting for the first time was “as if I’ve just been born” and another stated that it was “the best thing I have actually ever done in my life.”
How as a nation can we sacrifice the lives of our children so that others may enjoy the fruits and practice of democracy, but find every possible way to disenfranchise citizens on our very own soil? Our leaders should make it easier for citizens to be a part of our thriving democracy.
My grandfather passed away in 2004, and one of the last things that we did together was that I took him to cast his last vote for President. I got into politics and became a lawyer because I wanted to make a difference and prove that the American dream could work for everyone – rich or poor, black or white. Disenfranchising voters is not American, and the SC Voter ID bill is more of an American nightmare rather than the fulfillment of the American dream.
Folks like my grandfather are counting on all of us to do everything within our means to make sure that this law and others like it are not enacted. Contact the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (firstname.lastname@example.org) and share your thoughts on this unjust legislation.