The Right to Vote: A Continuing Struggle

Things move fast these days, so fast, in fact, that Americans are getting accustomed to radical change almost overnight. The country’s lightning speed acceptance of same-sex marriage is one recent example of how public opinion can shift in what seems an instant. 

In that context it is interesting to think about suffrage and the struggle for the right of women to vote. Today, at a time when one of the leading advocates for the disenfranchisement of Americans of color enjoys a prominent role in the Trump administration, the fight for access to the fundamental act of democracy continues.

Locally, we have the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons to thank for keeping voting rights front and center. Today, at 2 p.m., members and supporters are to march along Main Street after gathering at a house where May Groot Manson, a suffrage leader, once lived. The league event will commemorate an early suffrage rally that took place on the Village Green in 1913 — four years before women gained the vote in New York State.

It is unthinkable today that women, more than half the adult population of the United States then and now, could have been denied a role in choosing elected officials. Yet today, many states engage in gerrymandering intended to block black and Latino voters from having an effective voice in government. 

As bad, the Trump administration has set a path toward wholesale purges baldly focused on getting people of color off voting rolls. 

The administration’s point man on this is Kris Kobach, who has headed voter suppression efforts in his home state of Kansas targeting young and/or black citizens more likely to vote Democratic and has said that he does not believe that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election. Despite his claim, there is no evidence by several orders of magnitude for anywhere near the 2.8 million votes needed for Mr. Trump’s favorite voter-fraud conspiracy theory to be true. 

A White House commission Mr. Kobach leads also touched off controversy earlier this summer when it requested a massive harvest of personal data on the nation’s voters from state election officials, something even some Republicans objected to.

At the same time, the Jim Crow laws that were purged during the civil rights era have been replaced with the mass incarceration of black American men, which has been rightly called suppression in another guise. It is as if he, and those Republicans who think like the president, truly fear democracy.

As we celebrate women’s gaining the right to vote a century ago, we must never forget that the struggle for equal access to the polls continues. White supremacists have marched in Charlottesville and elsewhere, and as they take to the streets with the effective blessing of the president, the fight goes on. Now as much as ever.