A cutting-edge Republican that connects with the emerging America, Lenny McAllister speaks out on controversial issues such as the proactive need for voter validation measures.
I believe in civil rights. I do not always agree with the NAACP’s direction on the political front. In fact, more often than not, we respectfully disagree. Yet, there are times when a critical concurrence should take place.
On cautioning Americans on laws that potentially inhibit the votes of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians in its current implementation, we concur on the side of those at risk, many of whom are African-Americans or disadvantaged citizens that desperately need to deepen their engagement with both political parties and the political process overall.
Voter validation efforts must uphold the attribute of empowerment that comes whenever a citizen exercises his Constitutional right to vote. Those efforts must also bolster the parameters of appropriate participation in the greatest democracy in the world so that our republican form of government – from decorum during debate to valor in protecting the right to vote – is done in a manner that honors the Republicans and Democrats that fought and died to ensure American suffrage for our fellow citizens. Both our forefathers and future generations of Americans are counting on us to get it right today.
These legislative maneuvers – pursued, in theory, to optimize the value of America’s collective voting effort – cannot, in turn, truncate the nation’s diverse electoral voice and inhibit our ability to celebrate freedom across racial, socioeconomic, and geographical differences. Pennsylvania’s recent Voter ID law – passed in March and under appellate scrutiny ever since – may not be the best way to approach voting vulnerabilities with its current form, pace, and rollout. Not with a $5 million rush as we approach November. Not with the perception that it’s an “us vs. them” situation between Republicans and Black Americans that does not reflect civic partnership. Not with statements from Republican leaders that suggest that this law is key in guaranteeing a victory in 2012.
Let me be clear: there is a need for us to implement a proactive, intelligent, and empowering model to address voting in a 21st century America that faces the challenges of transient populations, questions of naturalization and residency, and mistrust across the sharp partisan divide. I believe in voter validation. I believe that a majority of Americans across political perspectives – conservatives like me on through – also believe in voter validation. However, I also believe that successful, non-discriminatory, and citizen-centric validation efforts are best implemented methodically and without the over-reach of jeopardizing the votes of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians. The efforts must be in the full spirit of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, placed into law with the overwhelming support of Republican congressmen and renewed by the pens of Republican presidents Reagan and Bush.
While the intent of voter validation may be legitimate and well-intended, new validation laws must ensure that the thousands already legally within the voting system are embraced, even as we work to eradicate suffrage vulnerabilities. When we work in a potentially-rushed fashion in response to hundreds of cases of voter fraud at the risk of disenfranchising thousands of voters – many of whom are African-American and in need of more responsive government in contrast to what they currently get as constituents – it is advisable for us to take a step of contemplation for the sake of the best solution for the future. We cannot allow the need for tempered, methodical voter validation laws to morph into a movement for implementing voter suppression tools for the sake of winning specific elections – whether that notion is perceived or otherwise.
Both Democrats and Republicans must be honest: voter validation is bigger than President Obama, Governor Romney, and the 2012 election. This is bigger than the notions of racist Republicans and demagoguing Democrats. American democracy is bigger than American politics. Yet, this issue is primarily wrapped in the partisan labels of today, not the potential consequences for tomorrow.
Today, African-Americans face high unemployment, harsh economic conditions, poor education choices, and tragic healthcare disparities. It is critical that these Pennsylvanians – from North Philly to Pittsburgh Penn Hills –are capable of engaging both political parties effectively with discourse each legislative session and at the ballot box every November. Any tone from either side of the partisan divide that manipulates the most vulnerable of Americans away from this does a disservice to my native Pennsylvania, regardless of if you believe voter ID laws are necessary or if you believe voter suppression laws are on the rise. I caution my Democratic friends against actively demonizing all members of a political party over a reasoned, yet currently flawed legislative solution. I caution my fellow Republicans against taking back America by taking away legitimate access to ballot boxes – while throwing away legitimate opportunities to form new partnerships with voters in sore need of new political leadership. No partisan monopoly on civil rights struggles can exist in modern day America if we are to rebound moving forward as united states.
It is my hope that those reviewing the law today will hold paramount in their thinking – the ramifications for the disadvantaged for years to come, not just the fates of the political combatants for the elections this fall.
Thank you, God Bless you all, and God Bless America.