On November 16, the Ford School of Public Policy hosted a symposium in honor of Rev. Jesse Jackson, which included a keynote address by the civil rights leader. The talk, titled “What’s next for us: Hope and reflection,” discussed the challenges facing our country following the November 8 election results.
One key point of concern for Rev. Jackson is the role of voter suppression in the voting process, commenting that its “effect is felt on the electoral college.” In his view, Hillary Clinton’s loss as a presidential candidate is due to the suppression in turnout of black voters. Despite varying explanations by political pundits for Trump’s electoral victory, he believes that they have “virtually ignored the suppression of the black vote.”
Addressing its effect on the voting process, Rev. Jackson comments that “voter suppression affects many groups: Hispanics, Asians, women who work, young people, seniors, the disabled and whites, but the primary target was African Americans.”
Rev. Jackson noted that states without an early voting process, like Michigan and Pennsylvania, are enforcing “an institutional form of voter suppression,” as he alleges that it disadvantages African American voters and boosts white voter turnout. He continued to argue that laws prohibiting convicted felons from voting represent another form of voter suppression.
With all these concerns in mind, Rev. Jesse Jackson calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that establishes the universal right to vote for all U.S. citizens. The theoretical amendment would give Congress the ability to establish a “unified national voting system,” as he views the state and local control of the polling process as an area of concern for voter suppression. His proposed amendment would require local and state jurisdictions to meet federal voting standards, mandate an early voting process in all elections, establish automatic voter registration for any citizen over the age of eighteen, and permit same-day registration and voting. In the words of Rev. Jackson, “we must democratize voting.”