Why I am voting for Obama, Part 2: Our individual rights, and the right to vote

In a few days, I will be 61. I have been privileged to be part of a great expansion in our rights as individuals in the nation that I live in during my life.

Now everyone can go to the same public schools, eat at the same restaurants, and drink at the same drinking fountains, regardless of the color of his or her skin.

Women’s rights have expanded past the right to vote. We’re still not getting equal pay in the workplace, but the Lily Ledbetter Act gives us an additional tool to use as we do our darndest to push thus issue forward. The glass ceiling has weakened some, and more women hold politically and financially powerful positions in government and industry. Our medical options now include effective contraception, allowing us to control when we have children and how many we have. And yes, Rowe v. Wade gave women the right to decide whether or not to get an abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy based on their individual situations and moral beliefs.

The increase in gay rights has been breathtakingly rapid over the past decade. I’m proud to live in a state where any two committed people can wed, and enjoy the legal and financial protections that come with marriage.

The rights of disabled citizens to have access to services is now protected by law.

Access to health care is going to expand under the Affordable Health Care Act, and that is a civil right in my book.

I’d like to also point out that my right to own a gun has never been in jeopardy during my lifetime.

One thing many people don’t realize: the right to vote has been expanded and protected, with 6 federal laws in my lifetime. The following bullet points are copied and pasted from http://archive.fairvote.org/righttovote/timeline.htm:

  • 1952 - The McCarran-Walter Act repeals racial restrictions of 1790 Naturalization Law. First generation Japanese can now become citizens.
  • 1965 - In a direct response to the Civil Rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others, The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is enacted. It bans literacy tests in the Deep South and provides federal enforcement of black voter registration and voting rights. This Act affects Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina. It also applies in Alaska.
  • 1970 - The 1970 Voting Rights Act bans literacy tests in 20 states including New York, Illinois, California and Texas.
  • 1971 - The 26th Amendment gives voting rights to 18 year olds in response to protests for men under 21 drafted for the Vietnam War.
  • 1975 - The Voting Rights Act is amended to include language assistance to minority voters. Language requirements have been used routinely to keep the vote from US born citizens who speak other languages. Now the Voting Rights Act has some real impact and enforcement in the Southwest.
  • 1990 - The Americans with Disabilities Act requires access to the polls and to the ballot.
I’ve already blogged this election season about my concern and ire with the plethora of attempts on the state level to roll back widening access to the right to vote with restrictive voter ID laws. The attempt to create urban legends about voter fraud running rampant seem to be working, too. A coworker told me that she supports voter ID laws. My answer to that: first, I do agree that voter fraud is a crime. We punish misuse of our right to bear arms with criminal charges and jail time, not by taking away the right to own a gun. Similarly, we should punish voter fraud severely, but we should not make it harder to vote, especially when documented cases of voter fraud are much, much rarer than crimes committed with guns.

So what does any of this have to do with my decision to vote for Obama? Simple. There’s an effort on to roll back individual rights, and the effort is NOT bipartison.

Republicans do not support the Lily Ledbetter Act, and want to restrict abortion and access to contraceptives. Republicans want to make it illegal for gays to marry everywhere in our nation. Republicans are the people sponsoring legislation to make it harder to vote. And Republicans are allowing the Presidential campaign to have an underlying current of racism.

Things aren’t perfect. I’m not a fan of the snooping that the NSA is doing into our electronic speech, and any time national security concerns are raised, it seems to be okay to water down our individual rights. This seems to me like small potatoes when contrasted with the increased protection to so many other rights, and the current efforts to weaken those rights.

I refuse to reward those who are trying to diminish my rights with my vote.


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