by Roy Speckhardt
At the core of any democratic society is the right to vote. Some may argue that it is also a responsibility to do so, but there should be no disagreement about the act of voting being of paramount importance for any country claiming to function on democratic principles. It should easily follow that supporters of democracy would be expected to push for allowing as many people to vote as possible because to do otherwise diminishes the power of the people.
The U.S. currently finds itself, however, in the ironic position of selling democracy to the world while not fully embracing it at home. The recent Supreme Court ruling on the federal Voting Rights Act has opened the door for states to begin instituting policies that discourage people from voting through discriminatory voter ID laws, early voting restrictions, and gerrymandering. Lawmakers in several states quickly announced they would waste little time enacting new voting restrictions. These new avenues of voter suppression add to a growing list of problems Americans experience in trying to exercise their right to vote. Thankfully, new groups have formed to push for positive reforms, and Project Vote issued a report earlier this year outlining many of the threats to voting rights. While this report includes some problems familiar to many, it includes an anti-democratic policy that rarely gets mentioned — the right of felons to vote.
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Roy Speckhardt is the executive director of the American Humanist Association.