Women’s voting rights threatened

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My article for Women’s Views on News about the how changes to the voting laws in the USA are threatening to women’s right to vote.

“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman […]

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.

He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.”

Declaration of Sentiments, Seneca Falls 1848

On a corner of the high street in Seneca Falls, New York, stands a sign commemorating the ‘First Convention of Women’. This landmark event in 1848 saw 300 women and men gather to discuss the unequal status of women in the US.

The outcome was a Declaration of Sentiments and the beginning of a 70 year battle to gain suffrage for women.

The monument to this landmark meeting is humble. In fact you’d miss it if you didn’t know it was there. It is almost as if these hard-won rights are taken for granted…

But now they are now under attack.

A spate of recent bills in over 50 per cent of states in the US could dramatically reduce citizens’, especially women’s, ability to vote.

The Voter Identification Bill has seen 34 states introduce legislation that requires in-date photo identification for voting.

Those without current photo identification will be prevented from voting. The Brennan Centre for Justice estimates these laws could impact up to 5 million voters. The groups that stand to be affected the most are women, those from ethnic minorities, young voters, low-income voters, and seniors.

The Brennan Centre said: “Millions of American citizens do not have readily available documentary proof of citizenship. Many more – primarily women – do not have proof of citizenship with their current name.”

Proponents of the bill argue that it will reduce voter identification fraud, yet there is little evidence to suggest that voter fraud poses any significant problem in the states where these measures are being introduced.

The new laws, being pushed forward by Republican politicians, aim to restrict the type the type of identification a voter may use. They also aim to limit early voting, to place strict requirements on voter registration, and to deny voting rights to Americans with criminal records.

The League of Women Voters has come out strongly against the bill and in Wisconsin they have filed a lawsuit arguing the laws illegally create a third class of citizens excluded from voting: those without identification (see WVoN article here).

They say: “The League supports full voting participation by all eligible American citizens and opposes efforts to create new barriers that block citizen voter participation. We therefore oppose ID and documentary proof-of-citizenship requirements.”

Protests continue against these new laws which the Brennan Centre has labelled “the most significant cutback in voting rights in decades.”

So if you thought suffrage was an old issue, think again. We may back in Seneca Falls before we know it.



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