Twice in the past two weeks editorials in the Sun-Gazette have referred to voting as a "privilege," which certainly wouldn't do the editorial writers' grades in a political science or constitutional law class any good. Admittedly, the August 25 editorial grudgingly adds, "And, yes, we realize that technically voting is a right granted to all Americans," but calling a demonstrable right a technicality makes the matter worse rather than better.
To be clear, voting is a constitutional right, which is made explicit by five Amendments to the Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment (1868) punished states which denied the right to vote to qualified citizens (who, at that time, were males at least 21 years old.) The Fifteenth Amendment (1870) guaranteed that "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." The 19th Amendment (1920) extended the right to vote to women. The 24th Amendment (1964) affirmed that "The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for [Federal offices] shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax. And the 26th Amendment (1971) lowered the voting age to eighteen. Again, voting is not a "privilege" or a technicality, but a right, so to compare voting to "making a purchase with a charge card at a store" (when one might be asked to show a photo ID) as the August 25 editorial did is just silly.
But silly seems to permeate the Sun-Gazette's voter ID editorials, a case in point being the editorial which describes the meetings sponsored by state Rep. Rick Mirabito to explain the new law. The editorial calls Mr. Mirabito "a Williamsport Democrat who is not happy with the law" and then adds, " ... one could argue that the incumbent representative stands to benefit more than anyone else by getting people out to vote." Who, one wonders, would benefit by not getting people out to vote? Don't we all benefit by getting people out to vote? Isn't that what democracy is all about?
To be fair, the editorial lamely adds, "we nevertheless salute the approach" taken by Rep. Mirabito. Well, who wouldn't salute someone who's trying to educate voters about their rights?
Lawrence F. Bassett
Submitted by Virtual Newsroom