Margaret Flowers: Restore Voting Rights Act, Repeal Voter ID Laws

Original release by the Green Party of the United States, with additional commentary from Dr. Margaret Flowers, who is seeking the Green Party's nomination for U.S. Senate from Maryland:

Dr. Flowers: "The closure of driving license offices in Alabama in order to make it more difficult for black residents to register to vote is simply the most recent attack on voting rights. This is a symptom of a national trend that is a great shame in a country that considers itself to be an example of a free country. How can one be free without a voice in the political process?

In Maryland, after years of hard work to win voting rights for people who have had a criminal conviction and passing legislation to address this through the state legislature, Governor Hogan vetoed the law, disenfranchising 40,000 Maryland citizens. Given that in Maryland almost five times more black residents are imprisoned than white residents (even though they make up only 30% of the total population), this disenfranchisement disproportionately impacts people of color.

Rather than allowing states to discriminate and restrict voting rights, we must push for national voting standards that simplify the registration and voting processes and empower every citizen to have a guaranteed right to vote. According to the Electoral Integrity Project, the United States is ranked 26th out of 66 functioning democracies for the integrity of our electoral system. We can do better than that.

Original release:

Green Party: Restore the Voting Rights Act, Enact Proportional Representation, Repeal Voter ID Laws

Green Party leaders said that the closing of 31 driver's license offices in Alabama, hindering Black residents from obtaining the identification necessary to vote, proves the need for full restoration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as well as other election reforms.

"The government of Alabama made the case for Voting Rights Act when it shut down 31 driver's license offices, mostly in counties with Black majority populations," said Thomas Muhammad, co-chair of the Green Party Black Caucus and executive board member of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute located at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

"Alabama's restrictive ID law was a blatant attempt to obstruct Blacks from voting. States are still vulnerable to the kind of abuses that the Voting Rights Act is designed to correct," said Mr. Muhammad.

The voter ID law, signed by Gov. Robert Bentley (R), went into effect in 2014, following a 2013 Supreme Court ruling in a case originating in Alabama (Shelby County v. Holder) that gutted Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 4 establishes the formula that determines which state and local governments with a history of racial bias must clear alterations in their voting laws with the Justice Department or a federal court.

Greens said that Alabama's combination of voter ID laws and obstruction of Black voter registration are only the most recent and conspicuous assault on fair and democratic elections.

"Voter ID laws are one of several ways in which Republicans - and also Democrats - manipulate elections," said Shamako Noble, Green candidate for the U.S. Senate in California. "Another way is gerrymandering by both parties' lawmakers, especially by Republicans in 2011 to give them virtually permanent control over seats in statehouses and Congress. Democrats and Republicans have conspired to pass ballot-access laws that privilege their own candidates and hinder third parties and independents."

Green Party members advocate numerous solutions to election manipulation and undemocratic at-large winner-take-all election systems:

• Restoration of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, repeal of voter ID laws, and universal voter registration. Greens said that evidence shows that voter fraud rates are insignificant and that voter ID laws undermine instead of preserve the integrity of elections.

Proportional representation (PR), in which parties and interest groups gain representation equal to the percentage of vote they receive. This prevents minority positions from being shut out in the election of legislatures, municipal councils, school boards, and other bodies. Greens call PR a remedy for gerrymandering. Electing Congress by PR is permitted under the U.S. Constitution.

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), also called Ranked-Choice Voting, which allows voters to rank their choices. IRV ensures that the victor in at-large elections has majority support and that voters can chose third-party and independent candidates without the risk of spoiling. Removing this perceived risk increases the possibility that such candidates can win.

• Enforcement of Section 2 of the 14th Amendment, which imposes penalties on states that show evidence of voting-rights violations, as well as abolition of the Electoral College and direct national election of the president by IRV. Greens have sharply criticized and filed a civil action against malapportionment in the Electoral College system caused by states' appointment of members of the winning party as electors regardless of the distribution of votes. Greens said that malapportionment dilutes the ability of millions of voters, especially Blacks, Latinos, and other minorities, to have their votes counted in presidential elections.

• Repeal of state ballot-access rules that preserve two-party power and block third-party and independent candidates. Green Party leaders said that the only real democracy is multi-party democracy and that validation of candidates from only two parties violates the right of voters to vote for candidates who represent their interests and ideals.

"Apologists for the two-party status quo claim that domination by two parties is natural and inevitable. In reality, it's the intended result of rules enacted by the two most powerful parties," said Carl Romanelli, Green candidate for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania in 2006.

"Despite a federal court ruling in July that found the imposition of litigation costs and fees on third party candidates who file in Pennsylvania to be unconstitutional, old party officials still refuse to consider appropriate reform. It is not the zeal of rival campaigns that's the problem, it's the abuse by official entities, like the state and the courts, that has institutionalized the obstruction of alternative parties," said Mr. Romanelli.

• Public funding of campaigns and legislation to overturn court rulings that confer "personhood" on corporations, most recently, Citizens United v. FEC, 2010. Greens call such measures necessary to abolish plutocratic control of government by powerful businesses and the wealthy. 
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