Disenfranchising voters is not American

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 (vot1973c@usdoj.gov) and share your thoughts on this unjust legislation.

2 comments on this post.
  1. Terry Earp:

    If you believe that our Veterans should be heard then please read the following. There are over 650,000 of us out here that pay our taxes each year but have no voice. We fought to protect the very rights and freedoms that we are now being denied. We answered our county’s call and pledged our allegiance to her and now we are calling on her and are getting no answer. Our country has failed us.

    They fought for us.

    Can’t we fight for them?

    American Veterans embody the principles of which America was founded more than 235 years ago. America is founded on the principles of freedom, justice and liberty for all. We as veterans, served with the belief that democracy, freedom and civil liberties should be held up around the world as well as here at home. Veterans have answered the call of our nation and served to help protect our country and its freedoms because we know that freedom is never free but comes with great sacrifice and a price. We have put our lives on the line to protect the freedoms that we all benefit from. Many of our friends never came home and paid the ultimate price. Then there are those who made it home and some in our ranks have fallen and failed in their communities. They have broken the law and have had to answer for their lapse of good judgment. We are all subject to the same laws in our country and we must abide by them and their authority, but when any law places a yoke upon even a small portion of its citizens rather than serving to help restore and protect them, then our liberty as a whole and as a united nation becomes fractured. Military veterans, who have been convicted of a felony, make up a significant portion of our disenfranchised American citizens. There are approximately over 650,000 veterans across the country that are unable to vote and are having difficulty finding work as a result of a felony convection. This is roughly one in eight disenfranchised citizens that is a veteran. Hilda L. Solis, our U.S. Labor Secretary said, “For veterans who have been incarcerated, a good job goes a long way to aid in rehabilitation”. She goes on to say, “Stable employment helps ex offenders stay out of the legal system. Focusing on that end is the right thing to do for these individuals and it makes sense for local communities and our economy as a whole”. These are great words but only words until the numbers of our disenfranchised veterans in our ranks that are unemployed begin to go down. The U.S. Department of Labor sat aside $11.7 million in grant money for the purpose of providing an employment centered approach to reintegration and long term labor market prospects for ex offenders. Compare this with the approximate 74 billion dollars our country spends in maintaining and growing our correctional system. The lack of employment has been found to be one of the leading causes of recidivism. Ex felons, who served in our armed forces to help protect these rights are now being denied these very rights in the name of justice. Justice without a certain balance of mercy is oppression and this is not what our country represents. The politics that are at work here is undermining the very fabric in which makes our nation great. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave. We are the land of opportunity and yes of second chances. Freedom without the freedom to make a mistake is not really freedom. For most of these veterans our government, with its current laws, will not offer this second chance them. Many have had their civil rights taken away for life. History has shown that we have treated many of our nation’s enemies better than this. What more is there for these veterans to do? They have paid their debt to society and due process has been served. Restoring their rights as an American citizen is the right thing to do.

    Contact us and tell us your story. We have not forgotten your sacrifices and together we will work on getting your rights restored. Those of us who have served in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, National Guard and Coastguard share a common creed in that we will never leave a fallen comrade behind. Help us Restore Civil Rights in America. Together we are strong, united and undivided we will be heard.

    For more information please go to: http://www.aarcr.org

    People need to know. Our veterans are counting on the citizens of our country because our lawmakers have let us down.

    Respectfully yours,

    Terry Earp

  2. Terry Earp:

    How do feel about the correctional system in our country? Do you feel that for the many billions of dollars it spends each year they are correcting anything? With this cost rising each year what do you think their true motive is?

    Justice without Serving a Function is Oppression

    Punishment without serving a purpose is persecution

    At the AARCR we believe that justice, mercy and grace must work hand in hand. Without the combination of all three you cannot have liberty which is at the very heart of every human ambition, to live free. When liberty is taken away it strips that person of his or her self-esteem. This act takes away the self-worth and the dignity of belonging and being a part of a community. It takes their identity that is universally valued by all of us. This is what in part binds us all together as a united nation. Our freedom should never be taken lightly. Without the freedom to make a mistake it is not really freedom. Punishment should serve a purpose but not just for the purpose of punishment alone. Somewhere along the line there must be a process for restoration. Due process has a defined meaning. Due process balances the law of the land and protects individuals from it. When a government body prolongs punishment after a sentence and due process has been performed is in violation and offends against the rule of law. An individual’s due process is protected under our Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments in the United States Constitution. States have usurped the authority of our Federal Government in depriving American citizens of their civil rights after a debt to society has been paid in full. The definition of justice is to be just, righteous and equitable. Mercy is defined as showing compassion or forbearance toward an offender. Grace is defined as unmerited assistance given for the regeneration of that individual. Where would we all be without grace? The act of forgiveness allows that individual a fresh new beginning. A person who cannot offer or extend forgiveness burns the bridge that he or she to must someday cross. When man places another into bondage for an extended or non specified length of time after due process has been served severs the cord that binds us all together. The human spirit was not created to live in bondage. Is this an issue in our country? When civil rights are violated by withholding them long after due process of the law has been delivered should be a grave concern for all Americans. Our civil rights should never be used as a bargaining chip. Civil rights should never have to be earned as some in public office have touted. After a debt has been paid and settled the rights of that individual should be returned to them. This is what we do in a free and democratic society. Look at the numbers of our disenfranchised American citizens. These numbers continue to be on the rise. This is 5.5 million men and women in our country that currently have no voice. Who will speak for them? You could be next or someone close to you. Once these rights are taken from you there are no guarantees that they will ever be restored to you under current political practices. Now is the time to speak while you still have a voice. Together we are strong, undivided and united we will be heard.

    Please visit http://www.aarcr.org for more information. Just knowing can be the beginning of change.

    Respectfully yours,

    Terry Earp

Leave a comment