“Martin Luther King’s Call to ‘Give Us the Ballot’ Is As Relevant Today as It Was in 1957”

Barbara Arnwine and John Nichols:

To bend that arc, a new National Commission for Voter Justice has been constituted at the urging of the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr., leaders of the National Bar Association and scholars and activists from across the country. This nonpartisan commission, which will launch this week in Washington, begins with the premise that Americans need reliable information about threats to voting rights, and that the information can and should be employed not merely to address those threats but to establish a voter-justice ethic that says every community and every state should be striving for the highest level of voter participation in every election. Working with existing organizations, it will build upon the research and insights of the country’s burgeoning coalition of democracy advocates.

The commission will explore a range of responses to voter suppression and to patterns of low voter turnout—including universal early voting, automatic voter registration at 18, restoration of voting rights for citizens who are returning from incarceration, and the provision of funding and structural support for safe and secure elections. It will also explore the democracy deficit that leaves Americans in Washington, DC, as well as Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and other US territories, with inadequate representation or no representation at all. The commission, which expects to conduct its work from January 2018, through December 2019, will hold at least 18 regional and special hearings, sponsor national training events, and publish at least eight briefing papers, advisories, and reports.

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