We must restore fairness in voting rights

To the Editor:

Are we truly a democracy? A cornerstone of a democracy is the one man or woman, one vote concept. Does our government really reflect the will of the voters? Is your vote and mine equally valuable or is this value being steadily chipped away?

Gerrymandering is the manipulating of election boundaries so as to give one political party a majority. Both political parties do this in states where they have control of the legislature. Even though extreme gerrymandering is constitutionally illegal, in many states the GOP, through gerrymandering, has effectively distorted the distribution of voters.

According to the Associated Press, the GOP now holds as many as 22 additional House seats because of gerrymandering. In the 2012 elections, Democratic House candidates won 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, but the GOP won 33 more seats.

Because of the way the presidential Electoral College votes are given out, the losing candidate can get more popular votes than the winning candidate. This has happened before and can happen again. In 2016, Hillary Clinton got over 3 million more popular votes than Donald Trump yet lost the election.

In  2013, the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act by no longer requiring states having a history of voting discrimination to clear new election rules with the federal government. Since the 2010 elections, 23 states have adopted new voter restrictions, such as ID laws.

In 2016, the first major election after Wisconsin passed a law requiring voters to have a government-issued photo ID, an estimated 45,000 people were prevented from voting. This was almost twice the number of votes by which Trump won the state.

The 2010 Citizen United vs. FEC Supreme Court decision gave mega-donors and corporations the ability to contribute unlimited money, often in secret, to political action committees (PACs). Since then, $3 billion in outside money has been spent on elections. The conservative Republican Koch brothers have already pledged to spend $400 million on 2018 elections.

Right-wing conservative media outlets such as Fox and Breitbart often provide a one-sided warped coverage of the news. Using rumors, innuendo, and conspiracy theories, they plant the seed of doubt in those willing to listen. When proven wrong, no apologies or retractions are made thus leaving their followers to rely on false or incomplete information.

The members of the House or Senate who you successfully vote for may not always represent your best interests. All too often what they support depends on the power of lobbyists. The national electorate by a 19 to 1 ratio overwhelmingly favors stricter gun laws.Yet the lobbying power of the National Rifle Association backed by the bottomless pockets of the gun and ammunition industry, assures the defeat of any gun-control legislation. Furthermore, they will work hard to prevent the re-election of any legislator who backed the restrictions.

Last but not least is the GOP packing of the lower courts with lifelong appointments who are either incompetent or ultra conservative. The future decisions they make will further dilute the impact of minority and economically disadvantaged voters.

All these factors — gerrymandering, the electoral college, weakening of the Voting Rights Act, new voter restriction laws, unlimited mega-rich and corporate campaign donations, one-sided and false news reporting, unrestricted lobbying, and packing the courts — steadily erode the value of your vote and mine. We must fight to restore fairness and equality in voting rights and to renew the belief that our vote really counts — a cornerstone of our democracy.

Charles Rielly


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