Whether you personally choose to vote, or don’t, virtually everyone can agree that the guaranteed right to vote without the threat of force, fraud or coercion is and must be the bedrock of any functional democracy. This right is guaranteed in the United States Constitution, further clarified in the 15th and 19th amendments (which guarantee the right to anyone regardless of race or sex, respectively) and again more strongly and explicitly protected by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Recall that the Voting Rights Act was enacted as a response to the rampant and blatant use of intimidation, poll tests and poll taxes, and other forms of discrimination to deny blacks and other minorities the vote during the heyday of segregation in the south (and elsewhere).
A recent Supreme Court Ruling in the case of Shelby County v. Holder (June 25, 2013) struck down what is essentially the heart of the Voting Rights Act. Immediately following the decision, Texas announced that a pending Voter ID law would go into effect without further delay and that redistricting maps would no longer be subject to federal oversight or approval. The federal government, in turn, sued the state of Texas and several other states challenging these new rules. Once again, the country is embroiled in a heated debate and legal battle over state’s rights versus federal power, protection of minorities and other groups that could be denied reasonable access to the ballot box or to the electoral process, and the future of American democracy.
Given the importance of this issue to upcoming elections, including and especially the 2014 midterms and perhaps even the 2016 presidential election, The John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute (University of Texas of the Permian Basin) has chosen to showcase this topic in the opening event of their upcoming 2014 Texas Leadership Forum in Austin later this week. A multi-partisan panel including four members of the Texas House of Representatives and one Libertarian county Chair will face off over the question of “Voting Process and Progress, What’s Right for Texas?”
Hays County Libertarian Party Chairman Kurt Hildebrand was invited by the JBS Institute to represent a seldom heard, and uniquely libertarian, position on the issue of voting rights. While the Democrat and Republic positions on topics such as voter ID laws and redistricting have been debated at great lengths in the media and legislatures through the years, the JBS Institute has taken a bold step in creating the environment for a true multi-partisan debate including ideas from the third major political party as well. Liberty lovers would be encouraged to attend the event and show their support for this type of inclusion in the public political discourse.
The event is Thursday, January 23rd, 7:00pm at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, 1900 University Avenue, Austin, TX, Amphitheater 204. Tickets are available for $25 and can be found at http://votingrightstexas.eventbrite.com.