Refuse to turn back clock on voting

By: By Larry Sutton - Contributing columnist

As we prepare for the election of 2016, let’s remind ourselves that this election is most definitely about the future of our country and whether or not we want to maintain our great Republic the founding fathers established in 1787, through a series of compromises.

As citizens, we must stay abreast with what’s happening, stay informed on the issues and make sure we are registered to vote by February 19 for the March 15 primary election. Having heard much of the tenor and tone of the debates from both the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates over the past several months, the choice for me has become fairly clear. Now, let me be clear, the 2016 election will be a historic and defining election as it relates to the future of our country.

Collectively, we the people are an instrument of change. Our vote will help ensure that America is moving in the right direction in the areas of racial and social justice and equality, healthcare, education and economic equity. As an exceptional nation, we should be about the business of pursuing fairness, justice and equality for all Americans, continuing to bring our country closer to fulfilling its promise of equal opportunity for all.

As voting in the March 15 primary nears, one thing that shouldn’t be a partisan matter is the need to make voting fairer and easier. Most definitely, everyone’s right to vote should be guaranteed and protected, while encouraging those who care about the future of their community and nation, to register and get out and vote.

Remember, it was President Johnson who signed the Voting Rights Act into law nearly 51 years ago this year, hoping to remove any remaining barriers to voting, and here we are, on the eve of the 2016 election, and the debate over voting rights continues. At a recent event, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lamented, “Fifty years after Rosa Parks sat and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched and John Lewis bled, it is hard to believe that we are back having this same debate.”

Not since the Jim Crow era has so much been done to interfer with one’s right to vote in North Carolina, under the pretext of rooting out voter fraud, even when the evidence suggests clearly that election fraud is extremely rare. Our state’s Voter ID Law which was passed in 2013, shortened early voting, eliminated same day registration during the early voting period, prohibited voters from casting out-of-precinct provisional ballots and implemented a strict photo ID requirement. All these things, critics of the law believed, made it harder for certain groups to vote.

With the 2013 Voter ID Law currently being challenged in federal court, a challenge initiated by the Rev. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP, right now, voters in NC can still exercise same day registration during early voting and cast out-of-precinct ballots in the March 15 primary election. Additionally, in-person early voting starts on March 3 statewide with the last day of early voting being March 12. And you will be asked to show photo ID during early voting and on Primary Day, March 15.

So, with everybody being on the same page for right now, let’s show great vitality in getting out the vote in 2016, creating push back at any attempt to make voting more difficult, refusing to turn back the clock on gains made by voting rights advocates throughout the years.

And remember, there’s too much at stake for you to stay home. After all, our right to vote didn’t come without a price. Vote and make your voices heard.

Larry Sutton is a former teacher at Clinton High School.

By Larry Sutton

Contributing columnist

Larry Sutton is a former teacher at Clinton High School.