Taking the Offensive Against Voter Suppression
SECTION. 4. The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.
Why does the Constitution of the United States give the responsibility for conducting elections to the states?
For the same reason that Article 1, Section 2 says:
SECTION. 2. The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
So why does the Constitution give the power to set the qualifications for voters to the US Congress to the states?
That's the way it is; but it doesn't make any sense. Congressional Representatives and Senators and the President are officials of the Federal government. Why wouldn't the Federal government establish the qualifications of voters electing Federal officials? Why wouldn't the Federal government run its own elections?
But the answer is simple: the price of the slave-holding states for participating in the new government established by the 1789 Constitution, was that the new Federal government would not have the power to even potentially interfere with the institution of slavery. What if the Federal Government made a law permitting slaves to vote?
The Constitution leaves the qualifications for voting and the administration of elections to the states so as to not potentially threaten the systems of oppression in effect in the states.
The state administration of federal elections, and the state determination of the qualifications for voters in federal elections serves no other purpose and is now a source of partisan mischief. We have seen it in denial of African American voting in the South, and in the all the efforts for voter suppression now.
Taking the Offensive against Voter Suppression is demanding that Federal Government establish a National Elections Administration, under the Justice Department, which establishes a single national voter registration list, and uniform elections rules and schedules across all fifty states.
All citizens should be registered once at age 18, and that registration stays valid forever. A person's registration follows them as they move. All they have to do is to update their address with the elections administration. The Brennan Center proposes a more modest plan, which they call Voter Registration Modernization.
The same procedures, machines, and rules for voting should apply everywhere, from Massachusetts to Texas. The same procedures for early voting, absentee voting, mail-in voting should apply everywhere. Standard voting machines in use everywhere, specified, programmed, tested and tabulated by federal employees. Federal law should govern convicted felon voting. There should a national right to vote, enforceable in federal courts.
This may not be possible now. Political power now resides in the beneficiaries of the current system. But we the people should start demanding it now. Religious leaders, especially those who champion "the use of the democratic process ... in society at large" should be not only protesting voter suppression, but going on the offensive against it.