Dan Tokaji has written this post. “This post is part of an ACSblog symposium in honor of the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. The author, Daniel Tokaji, is a Professor of Law at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Professor Tokaji is also a member of the ACS Board of Directors.”
As we look back toward the sacrifices of Dr. King and countless others, it is incumbent upon us to remember that their struggle continues. Just this year, we have seen new efforts across the country to make it more difficult for eligible citizens to vote. Several states have adopted measures that would require voters to have government-issued photo ID, despite the utter lack of evidence that in-person voter impersonation fraud is a serious problem. These laws will pose a disproportionate burden on people of low income and racial minorities, who are least likely to have the required identification. We have also seen efforts to roll back early voting and to make it more difficult to register new voters. There is no missing the fact that the predominant purpose behind these laws is to make it more difficult for some citizens to participate in our democracy. Yet for the most part, progressives have been passive if not completely silent in the face of these threats.
When it comes to the fundamental right to vote, then, there is a serious question about whether this country will bend toward justice or backslide. We cannot be lulled into believing that progress is inevitable, nor can we wait for the courts to save us. If we do, those seeking regressive changes are sure to prevail. We must instead learn from the example of Dr. King and his allies. We must speak out against these new burdens on voting, and demand reforms like Election Day Registration that will make it easier for all eligible citizens to participate in our democracy. Making the right to vote a reality is, in the end, our responsibility.