The theme of voting rights is timely with our nation preparing to commemorate our 50th anniversaries of two landmark pieces of legislation: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. At the heart of both of these statutes is a guiding principle: that equality of opportunity to participate in the nation’s civic and economic life is a fundamental right of all Americans. While there is still much work to do, these laws have been crucial in the progress toward this goal.
Securing every American’s right to vote is a simple part of this struggle. As President Lyndon B. Johnson said in 1965: “In our system, the first right and most vital of all rights is the right to vote. . . .It is from the exercise of this right that the guarantee of all our other rights flows. Unless the right to vote be secure and undenied, all other rights are insecure and subject to denial for all our citizens.”
Nationally, the right to vote is often far from secure. A recent report by the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration noted that voters frequently stand in long lines caused by broken voting machines, confusing ballots, and untrained or undertrained poll workers. This is not acceptable in a modern democracy. Fortunately, in our Western Kentucky counties, local officials take the right to vote seriously and try to minimize any difficulties for citizens in voting.
Participating in the political process is both our right and our duty as citizens. This Law Day, let’s reflect upon what each of us can do to protect and promote the voting rights for ourselves and for our fellow Americans. It is only by ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to vote that we can be sure in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
In addition, please be sure and exercise your right to vote this year so that your voice will be heard.
Thank you for the opportunity of continuing to serve as your elected Circuit Judge.