My Turn: Obama should act to protect voting rights

Last modified: 11/14/2015 1:03:01 AM
For reasons that escape most rational observers, the GOP continues to assault the rights of women and American voters. At the core of their assaults is the delusion held by too many Republicans that women and voters are not to be trusted, either with the health decisions that concern women’s bodies or with the right to choose something other than the arch-conservative view of what’s good for this country.

The assault on American women concerns me deeply, but I have come to the conclusion that the only way to push back against that assault is to ensure that every qualified federal voter gets to cast their ballot in the November 2016 election.

The Republican Party is bent on making sure that millions of us will not get to do that. In state after state they have slashed established early voting opportunities. In others they have systematically eliminated the only facilities that can provide voters with photo IDs that they made mandatory, usually in areas where Democratic voters are located.

So what is to be done?

As a man about to enjoy 50 years of voting in New Hampshire, here are some things that I think should happen: First, I believe the state Democratic Party chairs should request that the president issue an executive order that effectively moves Election Day next November so that it falls on the same day as Veterans Day. Combine the two. That will tell veterans, finally, that we recognize their efforts have preserved our right to vote, along with all our other rights and liberties. It also will allow voting to take place on a holiday that is recognized throughout this country’s business community. No one need lose pay in order to vote. Everyone who cannot file an absentee ballot, or exercise the right to an early ballot, will have a holiday and a day to go vote in person.

In states where valid photo ID cards are being denied to people, the administration could issue photo IDs that will meet voting needs for everyone who might otherwise be turned away. The offices of the Social Security Administration, for instance, might be used to issue compliant cards to seniors, or the military could issue voting ID cards for veterans. Post offices even might be equipped with cameras and equipment to issue such cards that identify people and open the curtain to the voting booth for them. The federal government could act to protect the right to vote, just as it did in the South during the 1960s.

None of this would be necessary, of course, if the GOP would stop trying to deny the franchise to people who think, look or speak differently from them. But they won’t. So we, the rest of us, must fight for the right of every qualified American to cast their ballot.

And Mr. President, you are just the man to lead us in that fight.

(Peter Hoe Burling lives in Cornish. He is a former town moderator, state representative, state senator and Democratic National Committee member.)

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