The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, yet this fundamental right is not explicitly protected in the U.S. Constitution. While Governor O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly have taken important steps to expand voting opportunities, several other states and the Supreme Court have made devastating decisions to move in the opposite direction. That is why I am introducing a resolution that will affirm the Council’s commitment to expanding participation in elections and protecting voting rights for all of our residents. I am pleased that all 8 of my colleagues have signed on to this resolution as co-sponsors.
At the county level, we have limited authority in making election law. While Montgomery County funds the local Board of Elections, election rules are ultimately determined at the state level. However, county government can be a catalyst for offering innovative proposals our state and federal officials can adopt. As chair of the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, which has oversight over the Board of Elections budget, I believe it is essential that Montgomery County have a strong voice in discussions about increasing voting rights and reforming our elections.
This resolution calls on Congress to restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was declared unconstitutional earlier this year by the Supreme Court. With states like North Carolina and Texas rolling back voting rights and instituting draconian photo ID laws, the need for robust federal enforcement of election law is needed more than ever.
The resolution also calls on Congress to give residents of Washington, DC full representation and voting rights in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. The lack of voting rights for residents living in our nation’s capital is a disgrace. The United States is the only democracy in the world where residents of its capital are not represented in their national legislature. Beyond this issue of basic fairness, DC’s lack of representation also hurts surrounding jurisdictions, like Montgomery County. Without a voting member of the House and two Senators, the DC area has less of a voice on key regional issues, like transportation, than we deserve.
At the local level, the resolution urges the Montgomery County Board of Elections to select new early voting sites that are “easily accessible by public transportation.” Montgomery County will have several new early voting sites in 2014 and we need to make sure that all eligible voters, regardless of income or access to a vehicle, have an opportunity to cast a ballot.
Finally, this resolution creates a task force that will review and offer recommendations to improve our election
processes in Montgomery County. I hope this citizen-centric approach will provide us with creative ideas to increase
You can read the resolution in its entirety here. Learn more about FairVote’s Promote Our Vote project here and DC Voting Rights here.civic education and participation in our democratic process.