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Voter Suppression

When I was a young lawyer in this county, I was approached by members of the Republican Party to institute a lawsuit to redistrict the county. The county had not redrawn its political districts in decades and the fiscal court had refused to consider it.

At the time, the action had to be filed in District Court. The judge refused to do it and I had to file a writ of mandamus with the Circuit Court to compel the judge to redistrict. Judge Harold Saunders, not a Republican to my knowledge, ordered the District judge to redraw the political districts.

Now, this is when it became interesting. The magistrates thought I was a young Republican lawyer causing a ruckus. I am a Democrat. Then we had to present to the magistrates, proposals for redistricting. We did not have computer maps of populations at that time so we had to use population maps that had dots for population and try to even out the magisterial districts by population.

 To say that the magistrates were protective of their district is an understatement.

We proposed that the districts be reduced to four equally populated districts but the magistrates were not interested in losing their power. As a result, we kept the same number of districts, evened out the population and the county was redrawn.

My point is, that although I was a Democrat, I believed in our Constitution and the one person, one vote principle. The Democrats were much in the majority but I believed that every person had a right to vote that was qualified and that each vote count like all others.

Now, the Republicans have become the majority in Shelby County by elected officials.

Rather than making it harder to vote, as the Republicans want, it should be easier to vote for each person so that our democracy stands the test of time and our Constitution is upheld.

The idea of limiting ways to vote, that is, no early voting, no mail-in ballots, no national holiday to vote, filing frivolous lawsuits to challenge election results, attempting to strip people of color of their right to vote, all have emerged as the Republican playbook. This is wrong. Republicans know that it is wrong. Yet they continue to participate in this wrong or remain silent. If you condone it, you own it.

The right to vote has never been fully exercised in our country by all of those eligible to vote. That is sad but the apathy can be understood to some degree because many voters just feel it does not matter.

This is also wrong. Change begins with participation. Voting gives one a voice for change and a voice for representation of the voter’s interests. I encourage everyone to always vote, support inclusion of all voters, make it easier to vote, and participate in our democracy. It is the most wonderful kind of government that allows us to be free, independent, and supportive of all. Equal protection under the law is something real. It should not be nuanced but implemented each day to preserve and protect our nation.

Gregg Y. Neal