Our blog series Vote 2012 aims to educate and update voters as we head into the U.S. presidential elections of 2012.
Tomorrow is a significant day for America—national Election Day—a day on which we, as citizens of this country, exercise the quintessential right conferred upon us in a democracy: voting. Through voting, we have power to choose our representatives and to change what is wrong with our government and its institutions. Voting is vital to an open society, and so we are launching this series of blog posts on the topic from key thinkers and activists.
We will inaugurate the series tomorrow with a piece by Open Society Foundations president Aryeh Neier, who, in the course of his career, has played a role in this critical civil rights issue.
Over the year, the series will take a close look at multiple issues related to the 2012 elections, which will be unprecedented in many ways:
- It will be the first presidential election to follow the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United vs. FEC, allowing corporations to spend freely on elections.
- It may include a changed Electoral College.
- It will be the first national election to follow the rapidly proliferating restrictive election laws.
- It may be the first election to have 1 million individuals at the polls challenging voters’ right to cast ballots.
Voters need to be aware of and understand the ramifications these changes will have on them and to have the tools necessary to cast their ballots correctly. Restrictive identification and citizenship requirements are proliferating in state legislatures; states are cutting back on early voting and early registration; polling places in predominantly minority communities are being eliminated. These new restrictions could affect over 5 million voters in 2012.
In today’s polarized political climate, it is difficult to protect the right to vote against these reversals. As a result, knowledge will be one of our most important tools. With the right information, fewer voters will be disenfranchised by the new suppressive laws and practices.
As President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “There can and should be no argument: every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to ensure that right.”