Skip to main content

tv   Brooklyn Historical Society - Ari Berman on Voting Rights  CSPAN  August 15, 2018 4:38am-5:26am EDT

4:38 am
security and justice department officials on the ongoing issues to help protect ongoing immigrant children from human trafficking and abuse. also thursday, estes each air -- pai is joined by other commissioners on his agency's work including robo calls, the outlook for 5g, and internet regulation. live c-span3 and streaming online at, or on the free c-span radio app. >> a look at voting rights with mother jones reporter and author ari berman. he spoke at the brooklyn historical society for about 45 minutes. deborah: it is my great pleasure to introduce tonight ari berman to talk about voting rights. ari is a senior reporter for
4:39 am
mother jones. he is a fellow at the nation institute. he has written extensively about american politics, voting rights , and the intersection of money in politics -- don't know what that is about. [laughter] deborah: he was the first national reporter to cover voter suppression a during the 2012 election, earning widespread acclaim for his coverage in pushing the issue to the national spotlight. his stories have also appeared on the "new york times," "the washington post," "rolling stone and "the nation." he is a frequent guest and commentator on msnbc, c-span, and npr. in 2017, he won an award for a stunning achievement in independent media. he is the author of "give us the ballot: the modern struggle for voting rights in america," about the history of voting rights in america since 1965. and "herding donkeys." he graduated from the mobile journalism, my alma
4:40 am
mater, northwestern university, with a degree in journalism and political science. he is also a new dad. [applause] deborah: yay! dad! ari will speak tonight, he will answer questions and, he has kindly agreed to stay and discuss books, "give us the ballot," which is on sale in the back there. thank you for coming. ari, welcome. [applause] ari: thanks so much, deborah. hi, everybody. thank you for coming out and braving the heat. thank you for welcoming a manhattanite to brooklyn.
4:41 am
usually, it is opposite these days, but i am one of the last of the dying breed. i was getting a tour before i came up here of this building. stephen was telling me that this building was built in the 1880's. i was thinking about what was going on in the 1880's as it pertains to voting rights. and the fact is, a lot of people in this room would not have been able to vote at that point in time. african americans couldn't vote. latinos can vote. native americans couldn't vote. .omen could not vote durin the right to vote was very narrowly restrict it, largely to white, male, private property owners. it is interesting, but he think
4:42 am
you think of history, you also think of the other side of american history, which is kind of how i came to this subject matter. honestly, for me, the right to vote was something that i do not think a whole lot about for most of my life. i didn't grow up in the segregated south, my parents did not meet marching in selma. i knew about the voting rights act and its importance, but it was an abstract issue for me. really for me, my come-to-jesus moment, even though i am jewish, was -- [laughter] ari: was after the 2010 election, when so many states flipped from blue to red, or became a whole lot redder. we began to see a wave of new is this following the election president to make it harder to vote to reedit things
4:43 am
like requiring a strict from of id that you never needed in previous elections, cutting back on early voting days, reducing the number of polling places, or purging people from voting rolls. this is not an isolated occurrence. from 2011 to 2012, there were 180 new voting restrictions introduced in 41 states. half the states in the country changed their election laws. so i view this as a very disturbing development for democracy and also a really important story to cover, which is how i first started covering this is a journalist. after the 2012 election, the supreme court heard a challenge to the central part of the voting rights act and then gutted the voting rights act, ruling that those states with a history of discrimination longer had to clear their voting changes with the federal government. that got me a lot deeper into the history. i knew lawyers, academics, activists, very basic questions about the voting rights act. what did it do? why was it challenged? wasn't it settled 50 years ago? to my surprise, there were a lot of interesting historical articles about the voting rights act, but nobody had really
4:44 am
written a book about what happened after the passage of act, 50 yearshts between 1965 and today. that is what led me to write a book about the history of voting rights. the title of the book comes from the first major speech that martin luther king gave about voting rights in may of 1957. it is really a remarkable speech. he was only 28 years old at the time, and 25,000 people gathered at the lincoln memorial for an event called the prayer pilgrimage for freedom during this was two years after the boycott led by rosa parks and dr. king. it was just the beginning of what we think of as the contemporary civil rights movement. what king was saying in this speech, was that every right that the civil rights movement wanted to achieve -- the right to be able to go to school where they wanted, the right to be
4:45 am
able to eat where they wanted, the right to be in but to marry who they wanted, the right to be treated as full citizens under the law, none of that could be achieved without the right to vote. that was the one right that was going to make all of these other rights possible. in 1957,ch culminated led to the eight-year effort accommodated in the passage. of the voting rights act. i always like to remind people what it was like before the passage of the voting rights act of 1965. you had situations in places like selma, alabama, where only 2% of african americans were registered to vote. if you try to register in selma and you are african american, you are told to name all 67 county judges to get on the voting rolls, something that i am pretty sure the judges themselves would never have been able to do when asked that
4:46 am
question. in mississippi, only 6.7% of african americans in the entire state were registered to vote. there were people from new york, like andrew goodman and mickey schwerner, who went down to mississippi and never came back, because they were murdered trying to simply get people to register to vote. that was america before 1965. what the voting rights did that was so important was struck down the literacy tests, the poll tax, the grandfather clauses that prevented so many people from being able to register. so you never had to name all 67 county judges to be able to register to vote. what it did over a longer period of time was say to those states with the longest histories of discrimination -- largely in the south, but not exclusively -- there were present new york that were covered by this as well -- those places had to prove their voting changes with the federal government, so they did not discriminate in the future. because the supreme court and congress knew full well that if they struck down one literacy
4:47 am
test or one poll tax, these states would just come up with shiftede, unless you the burden of discrimination from those faced with discrimination to those doing the discrimination. it was a remarkable piece of legislation, one of the most successful pieces of legislation ever passed by congress. in my view, it really made the promise of american democracy real for the first time in our country's history. that is the good news. the bad news is that there had been a 50-year plus effort at this point, to roll back the voting rights act and to roll back voting more broadly. the first thing that happened after the voting rights act was passed, the law was challenged unconstitutional. the federal government could tell them how to run their elections. this went to the supreme court, a different supreme court than we have now, and the court said in an 8-1 decision, the voting
4:48 am
rights act was constitutional , but that it was basically meant to enforce the 15th amendment of 1870, which had been ignored for over 100 years. that should have settled the debate. the law was upheld as constitutional, let us move on. what happened as it started to have an impact. then, when the first african americans, latinos, asian americans, and women were elected for the first time, you began to hear a new argument against the voting rights act. that it was a form of affirmative action in the electoral arena. that it was helping some voters, but hurting others. interestingly enough, this argument began to be made very aggressively in the 1980's with the election of ronald reagan. one of the people who makes the argument against the act must aggressively is a guy by the name of john roberts, who at the time, was a young lawyer in the reagan justice department. roberts was tasked with weakening the voting rights act. he said, in correspondence with
4:49 am
the reagan administration, in his words, violations of the voting rights act should not be made easy to prove. i think this is important, because it is not like john roberts woke up 30 years later and decided, you know what? i will write a majority opinion in 2013 gutting the voting rights act, i suddenly feel very strongly about the issue. this is something that he and others in the conservative movement have been trying to do for 30 plus years. and they were put on the supreme court processing for that -- supreme court precisely for that reason. what is interesting is that he fails. parts of the voting rights act were temporary and had to be renewed by the congress. and the congress actually renewed the voting rights act four different times -- in 1970, 1975, 1982, and in 2006. each time it was renewed, it was passed by overwhelming margins and congress, and every
4:50 am
time, it was signed by a republican president, which is think is really interesting to remind people, it is something that used to have bipartisan support. to me, the real breaking point when it comes to voting rights, was after the 2000 election in florida. i think a lot of people remember it for hanging chads, butterfly ballots, katherine harris, elderly jews mistakenly voting for pat buchanan in palm beach, but there was another whole part of that election. which is that florida is one of the only states in the country that prevents ex felons from voting -- something i will talk about later. the state claimed that all of these ex-felons, even after they served their time, were on the voting rolls and needed to be. the voting rolls. so they sent to this list of suppose ex-felons to be purged.
4:51 am
but first off, the purge was discriminatory. african americans were 44% of the voter purge list, even though they were only 11% of the population in florida. secondly, the purge was inaccurate. what happened was, people showed up to vote on election day in florida in 2000, they were wrongly told they were felons, and could not vote. after the election, the naacp sued the state and the state showed that 12,000 voters were wrongly deemed felons and purged from the voting rolls. that was 30 times the margin of election victory for george bush in the state. some people than one lesson after florida, which is that this could never happen again. other people learned a different lesson, which is that maybe this benefits us politically. maybe there is a benefit in preventing people from voting. maybe it will help one party, and hurt the other. so fast-forward to 2008.
4:52 am
i think what is really interesting about 2008 is not only is the first black president elected, but 5 million new voters cast a ballot. of those 5 million new voters, 2 million african american, 2 million are latino, 600,000 are asian american. so there are most entirely people of color, and they vote 75% for president obama. let us say you are the opposition party, and the fastest growing segments of the electorate have just voted in overwhelming numbers against you, what you do? that way i see it as a political journalist, you only have two options -- you can either change your policies to try to attract new people -- that is typically what you would do in politics, to try to win an election -- or, you would choose a different strategy, a very old and
4:53 am
timeworn strategy in american politics. you try to prevent those people that disagree with you from voting in the first place. and that is what happened. suddenly, when the other party got control of all of these key states after the 2010 election, whether it was texas, north carolina, wisconsin, pennsylvania, or florida, we saw the same laws, basically identical, introduced in state after state after state. and then these efforts got a shot in the arm after the supreme court, in an opinion authored by john roberts, who i just mentioned earlier, gutted a piece of the voting rights act. after that decision, a few things happened. first, the laws actually blocked as a discriminatory by texans , like the texas voter id law, where you could use a gun permit but not a student id, were allowed to go into effect. the second thing that happened, states passed more sweeping
4:54 am
voter restrictions. a month after the supreme court decision, when john roberts said that initial discrimination in voting was largely a thing of the past, north carolina which is one of the most progressive states in the south, passed one of the strictest voter id laws. it cut early voting, it eliminated same-day voter registration, it eliminated citizens awareness month, where states encourage citizens to vote, all of this in one bill, one month after the supreme court gutted the act. this was challenged in federal court in 2016, and the court found that this law -- in the court's words -- targeted african americans with almost surgical precision.
4:55 am
but some parts of the law are as close to a smoking gun as you will ever see in modern times. they cited one piece of evidence for this, north carolina was a state of that allowed sunday voting. new york doesn't have early voting -- we will talk about that later -- that in states with early voting, sunday is a popular day to vote, because a lot of people don't work. it is also the day when african-american churches hold voting drives. so north carolina got rid of sunday voting. the court asked, why did you get rid of sunday voting? the legislature said, some people are using it more than others. [laughter] ari: and the court said, ok, who was using it more than others? and the legislature said, counties that were predominately democratic and had large african-american populations. and the court said, you just admitted to us, in federal court, that you passed this law to try to disenfranchise people, based on their party, but even more significantly in the voting rights act based on their race. which is why they struck this law down.
4:56 am
it was clear evidence after the supreme court said that discrimination was a thing of the past, of the very type of the discrimination that the voting rights act was passed to stop in the first place. the third thing that happened, distressing to me as a northerner, was voter suppression spread to the north. people think of it as a southern thing. that it is happening in southern mississippi, but not happening here or there. i spent the election of 2016 in wisconsin, one of the most progressive states historically for voting rights, that consistently along with minnesota since the 1970's, had the highest voter turnout in the country, and was really committed to good governance, no matter who was in control of the state. that changed in 2016 wisconsin adopted a strict voter id law that 300,000 voters did not have, according to the court. and i'm sure you're asking, what is a big deal? doesn't everyone have an id? don't you need it to buy sudafed, a beer, cash a check? we can debate that some other time. what we cannot debate is that there were people who not only
4:57 am
did not have this id, but trying to get these id's and couldn't. i wrote about a 58-year-old african-american man who moved from chicago to milwaukee, with the name of eddie holloway, jr. he was someone who had a chicago id, had an id from illinois, but that was not valid for voting in wisconsin. hit could use it to board a plane, purchase sudafed or beer, but he couldn't use it to vote in wisconsin. so he went after the dmv in milwaukee and said, i want to get an id for voting. give him an id, because the name on his illinois id said eddie junior holloway because of a clerical error. it was that eddie holloway, jr. so, same first name, same last name, clerical error in the middle. they told him to go to that records office in milwaukee and get his birth certificate ammended.
4:58 am
he went down to records in milwaukee and said, how much would it cost to amend my birth certificate? they said between $400 to $600. they said you can go back to illinois and do it there. so he took a bus to illinois at the state capital and went to springfield and said, i want to amend my birth certificate. they said they had to see his high school and vaccination records. he went to decatur, illinois where he was from and got his high school records. he went back to springfield, illinois to the state capitol and said, can i now ammend my birth certificate? they said, no, we need to see your full social security statement. he went back to wisconsin, got all of his documents in order and said, can i am in my birth mend my birth certificate, sent by fax or email?
4:59 am
they said, no, you have to come back in person. at this point in time, this one voter, eddie holloway, jr., gave up. he made seven trips to different public agencies, spent over $180 of his own money in two different states, and was still not able to vote in 2016. what really bothered me was that i heard so many stories about how people were not excited to vote, how there was so much apathy in the country, and it was true. there were people who were not excited, but there was also an entirely different story. there were people who were excited to vote, but it was too herculean an effort to try to vote, but were disenfranchised because of voter suppression. one of the things that bothered me as a journalist, was that there were 25 presidential debates during the primary election season, and there was not a single question about the gutting of the voting rights
5:00 am
act. the fact that this is the first presidential election in 50 years without the voting rights act. i did a story in mother jones about what happened in wisconsin. we find, based on academic studies, interviews, tens of people ask me all the time did it have an impact on the election? absolutely. even if it had no impact on the election, the fact that one party deliberately made it harder for people to vote, was a huge political scandal that deserved far more attention and outrage. i would like to talk about where
5:01 am
we are today. i don't want to sugarcoat it. i will get to some good news, but let us get to the bad news first. this last session at the supreme court was the worst that i have ever seen for voting rights. you have to go back to the jim crow era to find a term where the supreme court so consistently voted against protecting the right to vote. the court upheld voter purging in ohio, upheld racial gerrymandering in texas, it had two different cases before it could have ended partisan gerrymandering and in both of those cases, they threw them out. so many opportunities to protect voting rights, no decisions that did so. then on the last day of the term, when i was on vacation, anthony kennedy said, i am retiring. when it comes to voting rights, anthony kennedy was not really a swing justice. i want to be honest here. he joined bush versus gore, he joined the gutting of the voting rights act, he authored citizens united, which allowed billionaires to buy american elections. he is only considered a swing justice, because the court has moved so far to the right. that said, his replacement is going to be worse.
5:02 am
i was doing some research on brett kavanaugh yesterday, one of the first things that i found was that he upheld a voter id law from south carolina that the obama justice department blocked and said would disenfranchise tens of thousands of minority voters. so, that gives an inkling into the kind of justice he will be. he will be someone who is hostile to voting rights, someone who will be hostile to civil rights, someone who was put on the court to carry out a very specific agenda of the federalist society, of the heritage foundation, and i think even more disturbingly, of the republican party. we don't just have a conservative court, we now have a republican court. which means, they are going to uphold the very laws that republicans are passing to try to rig the electorate, and
5:03 am
therefore, enshrine this kind of election-rigging that we saw in wisconsin at federal levels. this is disturbing, it is a 30-40 year project that the right has had and they are finally succeeding. i think what is unfortunate is that there is so much in his -- in this country we could be doing to make it easier to vote. in fact, some states are doing this right now, there actually is some good news when it comes to voting rights. i will give you one example. in 2016, oregon became the first state to pass automatic registration. basically, if you go to the dmv and they can confirm that you are a u.s. citizen, over 18 and a state resident, you will be automatically registered to vote. you don't even have to say, i want to register. they will automatically register you. this policy and oregon, registered 300,000 new voters in the last election.
5:04 am
in oregon, despite not eating a -- not being a swing state, has the highest increase in the country in voter turnout. 13 states have not passed -- have now passed automatic photo registration in just two years, which shows that when you actually put some effort into expanding the electorate, making an affirmative argument for why people should be able to vote, actually, a lot of people respond to it. automatic registration has not just passed in blue states, it passed by referendum in alaska of all places. it was signed into law in west virginia. to me, this is the wave of the future. i think that as a new yorker, it is really unfortunate that we don't have these kinds of laws. we are thought of as this progressive state in a lot of different respects, but we have some of the worst voting laws in the country. when i was in north carolina covering the trial i told you about, the law that was blocked with almost surgical precision,
5:05 am
the lawyer for the state of north carolina, who has now been nominated by donald trump to be a federal judge, by the way, got up and said, why does north carolina need 21 days of early voting, if new york doesn't have any? and i was sitting in the courtroom, and you know, as a northerner, i was offended. i wanted to say, how dare you southerners lecture us on voting rights? but then i had to admit, he kind of had a point. that we don't have early voting, and we are not being invoked by -- we are now being invoked by some of the worst states for voter suppression, as an excuse to do this kind of thing. that last time i talked in new york, i had a cheat sheet about all the laws that the states have that we don't have, luckily i found it in my pocket right before i came here. [laughter] 37 states have early voting new york has no early voting. 27 states have no excused absentee ballots, you don't need a reason to get an absentee
5:06 am
ballots. new york requires a reason under penalty of perjury to get an absentee ballot. 15 states have election day registration, you can register and vote on the same day which increases voter turnout. because so many people do not get it together to register in time. we don't. 13 other states have automatic voter registration, the way of the future for voting rights. we don't have automatic registration. so as new yorkers, i think you absolutely should care about what is happening in wisconsin, north carolina and texas. it is outrageous. but it is also outrageous what is happening in our own backyard, that we haven't gotten together to at least become the 38th state to pass early voting. [applause] i am hopeful that that will change as well. i will just end with three takeaways that i believe are
5:07 am
important. somebody asks you about it, just tell them these three things. the vote is a right, not a privilege that. -- privilege that too many people have died in this country for the right to vote, for us to once again come up with new ways to restrict it. the second thing, i believe, is that democracy works better when more people participate. i happen to believe that it is no coincidence that new york has some of the highest rates of legislators going to jail, and some of the worst voting laws in the country. i think a lot of people have become comfortable with power here, and don't want to give it up. i think that the elected officials are more responsive to the electorate when more people show up. the last thing i believe, is that voter suppression is fundamentally immoral. this is not of right versus left issue, not a democratic or
5:08 am
republican issue, it is fundamentally wrong to prevent people from voting. if that is your strategy to win an election, you should get another job. so with that, i will end and i'm happy to take a lot of questions. thank you. [applause] host: thank you very much, for a wonderful talk. two questions. do you think voting should be compulsory? ari: it is an interesting experiment. let me contextualize it for a second. the question was, should voting be compulsory? australia has had that since the 1920's. they had low voter turnout, and they came up with a radical solution. their basic idea was that the vote is not a right or privilege, it is the responsibility. that if you want to live here, it is something you have to do. it is not like australia is the
5:09 am
world's functional democracy, they have scandals too. but they do not have the kind of voter suppression that we have, where every election, you are arguing about voting laws, because everyone is able to vote. i don't think it would fly in this country, where you see "don't tread on me" flags, but it is a most interesting experiment. >> the other question i have is -- do you think that the people who -- especially judges -- who participate in decision-making that suppresses voting, do you think that it is class prejudice, just a desire to win, what makes people like that? ari: that is a good question. what do judges think, who pass these kind of laws, who uphold these kind of laws? i think it is twofold. i think some of them are carrying out the agenda of the party that nominated them.
5:10 am
it is very clear that some of them are doing the bidding and they realize it will benefit some people more than others. i think at the same time, they have developed an elaborate ideology to justify discrimination without seeming discriminatory. what you begin to see in the 1970's, something that was really embraced by john roberts in the 1980's, was his idea of colorblindness. yeah, discrimination was bad, but you know what, so was bussing, affirmative action, districts that help african-americans get elected. we are against discrimination, but we don't want color to be considered at all. that was very communicative, it sounded great. of course, who wants to consider color if you don't have to? the problem was, they were making this argument at a time when there was a huge disparity between races when it came to education, housing, voting. we weren't anywhere near a colorblind society, but they wanted to treat it as such and use it as an excuse to roll back the civil rights movement.
5:11 am
so i think that you have seen basically every justice nominated to the supreme court by a republican believes in this idea of colorblindness. they have convinced themselves that this is a morally superior ideology. that they are the ones freeing the country from discrimination when in fact only are doing is entrenching it. >> would you like to talk about prisoner enfranchisement? there are states that permit it and we are also an outlier when you look at other countries. also, with this being such an important issue, which election -- would you like to talk about how we are also being distracted when you're being told that the election was swung by other things that are less important? ari: i will stick to the first question for now. the question was about felon disenfranchisement, a big issue that across the country, 6
5:12 am
million people cannot vote, because of felon disenfranchisement laws. it varies state-by-state. some people cannot vote when they are on parole, probation, outstanding fines. there are a few states, most notably florida, which prevent ex-felons from voting altogether. even after you have served your debt to society, you cannot vote. one of the most interesting campaigns in 2018 will be about this issue of overturning the felon disenfranchisement law and -- law in florida. it is critical, because 1.5 million people in florida cannot vote. just think of margins, 537 votes in 2000. and the last election, donald trump only beat hillary clinton by 112,000 votes. 10% of the adult population in florida cannot vote including one in five african-americans.
5:13 am
that is staggering to me, and in one of the most important swing states in the country, one in five african-americans is disenfranchised, even after they have paid their debt to society. so, this amendment is one of the most interesting things i am following in 2018. one thing i forgot to say about the courts is that, as the courts move further and further in the direction of not protecting voting rights, i think mass voter mobilization and going directly to the people, is going to be increasingly important. it is not just florida, in michigan this year, they're going to vote on election day registration, automatic registration, gerrymandering. in nevada, they will vote on automatic registration. this is one way where you do not have to rely on the courts to uphold your law, you don't have to have faith in the fifth conservative justice to try to rule for you. you can try to go directly to the people, mobilize people.
5:14 am
i think what is happening in florida is really important, because it will not just potentially transform the state's electorate, it will get people out to vote who care about criminal justice issues, whom may not otherwise vote in midterm elections, particularly a lot of young voters of color who may be turned off by both parties, but care about mass incarceration and see this as a key piece. >> could you talk about the arguments and alaska and west virginia that worked for voter registration? ari: so, it is really, really interesting. basically, in west virginia, they were going to pass the voter id law. the democrats said, ok, this is basically a republican state. we will give you voter id, but we want automatic registration in return.
5:15 am
that was a grand bargain. they passed one bad law, and passed one other law which means that if you go to the dmv, you will get automatically registered. alaska was fascinating. alaska has basically a reserve of money, based on how much or -- how much money they have. everyone in the state sense of -- everyone in the state benefits from that oil revenue fund. now, when the senate for that oil revenue fund, you will automatically be registered to vote. the kind of innovative policy that we could be doing in other. >> i have two questions, maybe you can choose one. one is, you talked a little about john roberts and the ongoing project. if you could talk maybe about
5:16 am
jeff sessions and the role of the doj, since alabama is such a favorite state on voting. than the other is racial gerrymandering, that is also a new battle. how do you see that playing out in the forthcoming elections? ari: well, i think someone like john roberts has kind of tried to effectively make a new kind of argument for discrimination. i think jeff sessions made a very old argument for discrimination, which is that, i unreconstructed southerner who grew up in this era and still believes in those things. it was just something that -- one of the situations were donald trump is different than any other republican. i think he would've had a republican president -- not saying that they would have nominated a good attorney general, but they would not have nominated jeff sessions. he was not a remarkable senator, he had some of the most extreme politics, and despite trump bad mouthing him every day, he is
5:17 am
one of the most influential figures in the administration, driving the trump administration's policies on voting, legislation, along with stephan miller. he is one of the most destructive attorney general's in my lifetime. as you look at his record on voting rights, one of the things that jeff sessions did, which i think should have disqualified him from ever being considered as attorney general, when he was a prosecutor in alabama, in the 1980's, he prosecuted people that nearly died marching for voting rights in selma in the 1960's for completely bogus cases on voter fraud. what happened in alabama was that you would help people cast absentee ballots. if they were elderly or one reason or another. white politicians did it all the time. when african-american politicians did this, they were charged in voter fraud. it was a very contentious issue in alabama and jeff sessions was actually blocked from becoming a federal judge, largely because of this case.
5:18 am
because the convictions were thrown out, because it was seen as such a black mark on his record. it obviously did not stop him on -- stop him from being elected as senator and attorney general, but we are at a place where history really matters here. if you look at the background of someone like jeff sessions, you understand what they are doing and the things they're doing today. >> i don't have a microphone. >> how do we go about getting new york state to extend voting rights, other than perhaps asking cynthia nixon to take it on, in which case, andrew cuomo well adopted -- [applause] do we start by writing and calling our state senators? ari: the simplest answer, is a election different people. -- elect different people. these elections are not decided by that many votes. if you would increase voter
5:19 am
turnout by a little bit in some of these districts, you would have a very different legislature. it is really one branch of legislature blocking this from happening, the other is on board with all of these reforms. the governor has not always been the best supporter of voting rights, i will put it that way. i think a lot of people who support the governor and voting rights, have not necessarily put a lot of pressure on him on this issue. to me, supporting the right to vote has to be a foundational issue, the same way that people care about a woman's right to choose, or a clean environment, or a higher minimum wage. these are benchmark issues. if you are not for these things, you will not be elected to the democratic governor of new york. but somehow, you can be elected democratic governor of new york, and not want people to vote. i think it is very problematic. this has been raised in the governor's race and the governor has moved a little bit, but there was an opportunity to pass early voting in the last legislative session, and it
5:20 am
died. i didn't see the heavy hitters in new york pushing that hard for it. again, this would make us at 38th state in the country to pass early voting. it is not a radical reform that we are talking about here. we are not talking about compulsory voting. we are just talking about being able to vote on the friday or saturday or the sunday before the election. i mean, i had that experience, where i was in wisconsin on election day, 2016. i liked voting in person. i have a three-year-old daughter in addition to a two-month old daughter, and i really like taking the three-year-old to vote. she likes to get that "i voted" sticker. and, to get an absentee ballot, it was a ridiculous process and -- process in new york. i could have gone there, but i was really busy. i had to figure out where the board of elections was, send in
5:21 am
a form to get an absentee ballot, get the absentee ballot in the mail, make sure i got in time, signed under penalty of perjury that i needed an absentee ballot, pay for postage to return the absentee ballot back. i was easily able to do it but different steps that i had to take to do it -- as opposed to taking a walk down the block from my apartment two days before the election, if we had early voting. a lot of people are already look warm around voting, but if we could just remove one obstacle -- if you just add one obstacle -- a lot of people are already -- all of this basically serves as a deterrent. yes. >> i am going back in history,
5:22 am
you mentioned the rights and privileges today. john roberts back in reagan days, thinking, what is -- we would have a better chance of blowing the rights versus privilege argument out of the water, if maybe we had a better sense of who the conspirators in the '60's and '70's were. were they academics, politicians, or where they are group of guys in a smoke-filled room who said, let us know this voting rights thing down, so we can get it done in our favor. that is my basic question. who were the intellectual structure that the rights and privileges thing was based on? ari: that is a right reason to buy my book. [laughter] i talk about that extensively, in a way that is not easily summarized in 2 minutes. basically, what you had was an alliance between southern conservatives who did not like the act, and northern
5:23 am
conservatives, former liberals who became conservatives rightly -- partly because of their antipathy toward what they viewed as what the civil rights movement had become in the 1970's. they were trying to rebrand their opposition to civil rights and not seem discriminatory. so it was kind of this odd coalition that was able to do it. will obviously, there were also a lot of opportunistic politicians who latched onto it and said, we can benefit politically from not doing this. i think you raise a larger question about why have this "rights versus privilege" argument? we do not have a fundamental guarantee of voting rights in our constitution. we have a lot of things that you cannot do in our constitution, theoretically. you cannot discriminate against people on the basis of race, prevent women from voting, prevent people from voting if they are over 18. all of these things that you cannot do. but we do not have a line or constitution line that says everyone should vote. a lot of countries do, but we don't.
5:24 am
that is one reason we keep having our debate. our founders, many of whom were slaveholders, made a conscious decision not to do this. and was not like it wasn't debated in the 1770's and 1780's. it was debated. they made a conscious decision not to make the right to vote a fundamental right, because it wanted to restrict that right. and we are still living in many ways, with that history, today. two more questions? what? ok, that is it, sorry. [laughter] i apologize. i am happy to talk afterward. thank you all for coming, thank you c-span, for filming it. [applause] the c-span buses touring the country visiting all 50 states,
5:25 am
early yesterday morning the bus arrived in hawaii after a weeklong journey on a cargo ship. you can find the c-span bus in and maui.oahu >> c-span washington journal live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up this morning. inside elections reporter on the result of primaries in four states. a discussion of nafta renegotiations and trade policy. public citizen global trade watch director is on as well. watch washington journal live at 7 a.m. eastern this morning. join the discussion. >> this afternoon a panel of the


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on