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Do your part: March to the polls, vote

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN | 11/7/2016, 9:43 a.m.
“I was beaten, left bloody [and] unconscious so that every person could register and vote. Do your part.” – Congressman ...
Marian Wright Edelman

Judge Keith shared profiles of 36 “martyrs of the struggle,” Black and White men and women who were murdered while fighting for voting rights. He wrote in his conclusion: “[V]oting is the ultimate expression of self-government. Instead of making it easier for all persons, unrestrained and unfettered, to exercise this fundamental right to vote, legislators are making it harder. States are audaciously nullifying a right for which our ancestors relentlessly fought and – in some instances – even tragically died.

“With every gain in equality, there is often an equally robust and reactive retrenchment. We must never forget that constant dialectical tension. For every action, there is a reaction. The Majority’s decision is a fateful reminder that we can never fool ourselves into believing that we have arrived as a nation. Our decision today, and more decisions like this one, will undoubtedly shape the future of this Nation because deciding who gets to vote inevitably affects who will become our leaders – a determination that is grounded in the principles long cherished and long pursued by our Founding Fathers. This is exactly why so many are actively seeking to etch away at the right to vote in assembly halls across this nation. These efforts are hardly insignificant or negligible. They are, for their proponents, necessary and highly deliberate. It is my hope that when future generations look back on these decisions, they conclude that we were on the right side of history. But today I fear that we were not.”

Some states are committed to doing the right thing. California, for example, has passed legislation making it easier to register to vote and this year has recorded its highest number of registered voters; while Ohio is one of a number of states where the right to vote is under deliberate assault.

In some states, including Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan and Kansas, courts have ruled the latest attempts at disenfranchising voters unconstitutional. But we can never let our guard down when any state is being affirmed in its calculated attempts to shut out some voters and make it harder for citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The successful attack on minority voters in Ohio is an attack on all of us and our democratic process. We must fight every effort to turn back the clock on racial and social justice, and never take it for granted.

Keith and Lewis remind us how those who struggled and lived through the Civil Rights Movement know firsthand that the right to vote is something so many Black Americans fought and died for not very long ago. Many of those brave nonviolent warriors could not have imagined – as Robert Kennedy correctly predicted – that within a generation, we would elect our first African American president. One hundred years ago, American women were still marching and fighting for equal voting rights not yet guaranteed by the 19th Amendment. Every Black American has a responsibility to our forebearers who could not vote and who struggled, even died, to attain it, to use it and make our votes count.

About 20 years ago, I wrote a letter to my three sons urging them when they grew up to use their political power for others less fortunate and to always vote and hold those they vote for accountable to ensure a more just nation. If we like or don’t like what our political leaders are doing and stand for, we must make that clear through our voices, votes and monitoring of their actions.

If you’ve registered, please urge and help others to #ImpactTheVote! Make your voice heard and help others get to the polls, Nov. 8.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund. For more information, go to http://www.childrensdefense.org.