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EDITORIAL: Pa. should vote by mail
This month marks the 51st anniversary of the Voting Rights Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. Its primary aim was to provide greater voting access to African-Americans.
So we are disheartened that legal barriers at the state and local levels continue to deter African-Americans and economically disadvantaged citizens from voting.
Red states such as Texas and North Carolina have been identified as creating such legal barriers, and it is widely recognized as a politically motivated initiative.
The African-American vote often favors the Democratic Party. In 2012, according to a Gallup Poll, 95 percent of black Americans who cast their ballot voted for President Barack Obama.
Marc Elias, an attorney whose law firm has challenged voting restrictions in several states including Wisconsin and North Carolina, said the recent rulings are steps toward correcting "voting restriction laws put in place by Republican legislators," according to an Associated Press report. There's been a concerted effort by Republicans nationwide since Obama was elected to turn back the clock on voting rights and laws allowing access to the polls that had been in place since the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, he said.
It may be a long road from the consistent need to check states such as North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and others on their politically motivated, prohibitive voting laws to unfettered access for citizens.
But we’d like to suggest that opening up the democracy to all American people 18 years old and older is the cornerstone of who we are.
There are a number of ways to do this, including postal voting, which allows residents to vote entirely by mail. In Pennsylvania, only absentee ballots may be mailed.
North Carolina two weeks ago was found to have not only discriminated against minorities but passed tougher election rules with the intent on doing so. A court continues to mull whether Texas had the same motives.
Texas agreed this past week to weaken its voter ID law, which federal courts have said discriminated against minorities and the poor and left more than 600,000 registered voters potentially unable to cast a ballot.
The state worked fast to soften the law before November's election, moving from requiring voters to show one of seven forms of suitable ID — a list that included concealed handgun permits, but not college IDs, the AP reports — to letting those without such an ID sign an affidavit, allowing them to cast a vote that will be counted.
Texas must also spend at least $2.5 million on voter outreach before November, according to the agreement submitted to U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, who must still approve the changes.
Meanwhile Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is speculating that people without proper identification "are going to vote 10 times" during an interview on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor." Trump suggested at a rally Monday that he fears the general election "is going to be rigged" without offering any immediate evidence.
"You don't have to have voter ID to now go in and vote, and it's a little bit scary," Trump said on Fox News. Trump, who continues to slip in election polls against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, is beginning to make excuses at rallies, instead of touting his poll numbers, as he did during the Republican primary.
What’s really scary is voter suppression attempts are alive and well in this democracy. The idea that nefarious voters will be flocking to the polls to criminally vote is ludicrous, at best.
If we really want to ensure all Americans can exercise their civic duty, let’s get bipartisan lawmakers to examine postal voting nationwide.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), at least 22 states have provisions allowing certain elections to be conducted entirely by mail. Three of these states, Oregon (since 2000), Washington (2011) and Colorado (2013) hold all elections entirely by mail.
Pennsylvania should consider the pros of mail-in voting for all elections. According to the NCSL, those pros include voter convenience and satisfaction, financial savings and a potential increase in voter turnout. The concerns include a loss of tradition and increased cost for printing mailers.
We believe the pros outweigh the cons.
Perhaps a bipartisan committee of Pennsylvania legislators could be convened for such a purpose. Because if our virulent partisan history is any indication, leaving it up to states with largely Republican-controlled legislatures means no move toward providing more access, as outlined in the 1965 Voting Rights Act, can be anticipated anytime soon.