*** Alex Padilla has been endorsed for Secretary of State by the CDP ***
American independence doesn’t come with an asterisk. It isn’t life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for some — it is declared for all of us. So let’s celebrate America by defending the right to vote — for every eligible citizen, everywhere in America.
Happy Independence Day!
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our nation, I wanted to share this op-ed that I authored to remind us all of the fundamental reason we celebrate our democracy and why our fight to defend and strengthen voting rights is so important.
As we prepare to gather with loved ones, get our barbecues ready, and decide where we might watch a fireworks show tonight, please also take a moment to read my op-ed and pass it along to your friends and family.
Thank you again for your support. Have a happy and safe 4th of July.
California Secretary of State
This Independence Day, Celebrate America by Defending Voting Rights
By Alex Padilla
Flags are mounted, grills are fired up and friends, family and neighbors are gathering to celebrate Independence Day across the country. We celebrate our history, our veterans and our most fundamental values of American democracy, including the right to vote. But this year, recent decisions by an ideologically split U.S. Supreme Court are putting Americans’ right to vote at risk by enabling racial and partisan gerrymandering and upholding voter suppression tactics. We are reminded that we cannot celebrate America without also defending the right to vote.
Make no mistake —the Supreme Court’s assault on voting rights impacts everyone – red states, blue states, the elderly and young of any race. But the brunt of such attacks will be felt most profoundly by communities that have been historically disenfranchised – people of color and low-income communities.
Specifically, in Abbott v. Perez, the Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s extensive findings that the Texas legislature engaged in intentional racial discrimination when drawing congressional and state legislative districts. The targets? Black and Latino voters. The message? The Supreme Court will find a way to justify a legislature’s impermissible racial discrimination to pick their voters, rather than allowing voters to pick their representatives.
In Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Court upheld an Ohio law that permitted the state to start the process to remove voters from the rolls, simply because they sat out an election. The Court effectively sanctioned a “use it or lose it” rule on American voters.
Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision to retire by the end of this month presents additional challenges to protect our voting rights. We know that important voting rights questions will continue to find their way to the Supreme Court as legislatures across the country are expected to double down on issues ranging from harsh voter ID laws, campaign finance laws, partisan gerrymandering, and voter registration practices. I won’t be holding my breath that Trump’s nominee is going to be friend of voting rights. We are approaching what will likely be the biggest showdown on voting rights in decades.
History has shown that these types of laws disproportionately disenfranchise lower income voters, communities of color, and younger voters for reasons ranging from access to transportation to the ability to take time off of work to go vote without loss of wages.
Many of these laws are advanced under the false premise of voter fraud, despite the abundant evidence that shows voter fraud is exceedingly rare.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, since 2010, 23 states have enacted laws making it either harder to vote, or implemented stricter voter ID requirements.
But these attacks on voting rights won’t go unchallenged. Americans who care about our democracy are ready to act.
We are acting by encouraging the people in our lives to register and vote. In schools, churches and local communities, Americans are participating in their democracy by getting others to as well.
We are holding officials accountable when they try and enact regressive voting laws. Voters are marching, hosting phone banks or writing letters to express their outrage at any efforts making it harder for eligible Americans to vote.
And, we are supporting reforms that have taken hold in places like California to expand the franchise. Leaders across the country are being pressured to adopt automatic and online voter registration, same-day voter registration, more early voting options and eliminating discriminatory voter ID laws.
These next few years will be crucial for voting rights in America. In addition to picking at least one new Supreme Court nominee, there is also the issue of ensuring that the 2020 Census – which dictates billions in funding and congressional apportionment – is done fairly and accurately.
This Fourth of July, let us remember that the Declaration of Independence states that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” We all have a right for our voices to be heard, not stifled. After all, American independence doesn’t come with an asterisk. It isn’t life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for some – it is declared for all of us. So let’s celebrate America by defending the right to vote – for every eligible citizen, everywhere in America.
That’s the most American thing we can do this holiday.
Alex Padilla is California’s Secretary of State