Last week, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in Evenwel v. Abbott. Democratic Party of Georgia Chair DuBose Porter gave his take on the case that threatens the democratic principle of “one person, one vote.”
Savannah Morning News // DuBose Porter
Fifty years ago, Georgia’s own John Lewis stood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., with young activists demanding a voice at the ballot box. Congress passed and President Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965 —a landmark piece of legislation that extended the franchise to countless Americans whose participation in our democracy was denied. While we have made much progress since 1965, recently we’ve witnessed a coordinated attack from the right to limit who has access to our democracy.
Republicans around the nation are gunning for more restrictions on voters — because when large groups of targeted populations are disenfranchised, they have a better chance of winning. This ‘change the rules of the game to ensure a win’ effort is demonstrated through restrictive voter ID laws, curtailing early voting, and other egregious attempts to limit access to the necessary documents needed to register to vote.
But now we face another fundamental challenge to our democracy. On Dec. 8, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Evenwel v. Abbott. On its face, it’s just a redistricting case. But a closer look reveals just how insidious this right-wing attack on democracy truly is.
The plaintiff, Sue Evenwel, is an executive member of the Texas Republican Party. If she wins in court and has her way, states would be forced to leave out entire swaths of their populations when drawing legislative districts simply because they are not voters. Children, legal permanent residents, and others currently unable to vote would not be counted and would be invisible for purposes of representation. In other words, districts would be drawn on the number of eligible voters — not on the actual population of an area.
Instead of representing all of the people, our elected officials would effectively ignore millions of people living under their jurisdiction simply because they can’t vote. These are children who go to our schools. They’re hardworking women and men who pay the taxes that pave our roads and build our infrastructure. They’re the DREAMers who will one day become homeowners, business owners, and employers.
To ignore them when creating legislative districts is to disenfranchise the very people we’ve fought so hard to include in our democracy over the past five decades. Young people, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans all disproportionately suffer if Sue Evenwel gets her way.
In Georgia, an estimated 2,490,299 young people under 18 could be disenfranchised if Sue Evenwel has her way — including 49 percent who are young women; 833,690 of African Americans; and 314,438 of Hispanics.
Republican lawmakers in Georgia have already mounted a concerted effort to restrict access to the ballots. This offensive move began few a years ago with new Georgia voter ID laws — some of the strictest in the nation. And it continues with Republicans pushing to hack away at early voting days and a Secretary of State who regularly purges our voter rolls.
And just last year, after several counties decided to expand early voting opportunities to a few Sundays in October, Republicans vowed to “eliminate this election law loophole.”
Ballot access is not a loophole, it’s a guaranteed right. As Americans, we are directed to protect this sacred right and no effort to restrict or intimidate its exercise should be tolerated.
This is a cause that all fair-minded Americans can rally behind. After all, the defendant in the case is Texas’ own Republican Governor, Greg Abbot who is advocating for districting by population.
In 2015, we must remain as vigilant as ever in the face of such egregious attacks on our democracy. We’ve come too far to silently sit back and let those with an extreme agenda erase our progress. Anything less would dishonor the legacy of heroes like John Lewis and the countless others that gave their all — in some cases their lives — to ensure that every American has a voice.
DuBose Porter of Dublin is chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia.