Robert Reich: “Stop Voter Suppression”

By Robert Reich
Reprinted from Robert Reich’s blog at

A crowning achievement of the historic March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream” speech, was pushing through the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. Recognizing the history of racist attempts to prevent Black people from voting, that federal law forced a number of southern states and districts to adhere to federal guidelines allowing citizens access to the polls.

But in 2013 the Supreme Court effectively gutted many of these protections. As a result, states are finding new ways to stop more and more people—especially African-Americans and other likely Democratic voters—from reaching the polls.

Several states are requiring government-issued photo IDs—like drivers licenses—to vote even though there’s no evidence of the voter fraud this is supposed to prevent. But there’s plenty of evidence that these ID measures depress voting, especially among communities of color, young voters, and lower-income Americans.

Alabama, after requiring photo IDs, has practically closed driver’s license offices in counties with large percentages of black voters. Wisconsin requires a government-issued photo ID but hasn’t provided any funding to explain to prospective voters how to secure those IDs.

Other states are reducing opportunities for early voting.

And several state legislatures—not just in the South—are gerrymandering districts to reduce the political power of people of color and Democrats, and thereby guarantee Republican control in Congress.

We need to move to the next stage of voting rights—a new Voting Rights Act—that renews the law that was effectively repealed by the conservative activists on the Supreme Court.

That new Voting Rights Act should also set minimum national standards—providing automatic voter registration when people get driver’s licenses, allowing at least 2 weeks of early voting, and taking districting away from the politicians and putting it under independent commissions.

Voting isn’t a privilege. It’s a right. And that right is too important to be left to partisan politics.  We must not allow anyone’s votes to be taken away.

Robert__Reich_ThumbROBERT B. REICH is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fourteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock, “The Work of Nations,” and”Beyond Outrage,” and, his most recent, “Saving Capitalism.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, INEQUALITY FOR ALL.

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2 Responses to “Robert Reich: “Stop Voter Suppression””
  1. RickD says:

    Reich has become an important voice in the struggle to restore our democracy ,and its focus on citizenry rather than corporatocracy.

    One might note that the voter suppression we experience comes from the Republican Party almost exclusively, but to place all blame upon them is to miss the real picture, I believe. During Obama’s first two years in office he had a democratic Congress yet accomplished little, a republican minority managed quite well to thwart democrats bills and Obama’s agenda. Yet, when the tables turned and the Congress became a bastion of Tea Party ideologies we saw a silent and ineffective opposition from both the President and his Party. I believe this was due to a strategy adopted in the face of the GOP slide to the far right. The democratic leadership decided to move rightward itself to supposedly capture those voters abandoned by an increasingly radicalized opposition party.

    But, rather than espouse traditional democratic party values, rather than remaining “the big tent” party, the choice was made to continue to pander to the wealthy, the corporate, those who provide the money to run ridiculously long and even more ridiculously expensive campaigns. Thus the people are shut out and the 1% run the nation. Voter suppression, increasingly accomplished as the majority of states have republican governors, is but a symptom of our ill, perhaps even terminally so, democracy.

  2. depelton says:

    Yes, I’ve just started reading Thomas Frank’s new book on the subject of what went wrong with the Democratic Party. Your comments are in complete agreement with his arguments.

    I printed an excerpt from his book here:

    I know you’ve seen it because you commented on it.

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