August 18th marked the 94th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—which granted women the right to vote — the Republican House of Representatives leadership recognized the event by ignoring it … just as they have ignored the need to permit a vote on James Sensenbrenner’s (R-WI-5) H.R.3899 : Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 to address the complaints of the US Supreme Court.
FUN FACT : Did you know that although most of the states ratified the amendment in 1919 and 1920, 10 states either initially rejected the measure, or simply put it off altogether. (Federal law trumped, so women could still vote in the 10 holdout states, even before they got around to ratification.) Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Alabama had all ratified by the mid 1950s. Florida signed on in 1969. The Carolinas, Georgia and Louisiana all agreed that women should be able to vote during the 1970s. Mississippi held out until 1984.
It is important to remember that when our Constitution was originally ratified, the right to vote was specifically not guaranteed. In fact, it was an incredibly restrictive law. Only white male property owners above the age of 21 could vote. That was less than 20 percent of the country’s population at the time.
Many of our Founders specifically did not want to expand the franchise of voting, believing most in society were unqualified for the privilege. In fact, John Adams famously wrote:
It is dangerous to open so fruitful a source of controversy and altercation as would be opened by attempting to alter the qualifications of voters. There will be no end of it.
We may think that we have the right to vote, yet we have needed constitutional amendments prohibiting discrimination based on race, gender, and age.
One group that may be more interested in voting this time is college students.
College students have been the targets of a number of efforts to decrease their participation, from disallowing student IDs as an acceptable form of voter identification, to stricter residency requirements, to limited polling locations on campuses.
The issue that is driving them to participate is the rising in student debt … resulting from Chairman John Kline’s insistence that the US Treasury “processing fee” become a “profit-making machine”.
Chairman Kline’s stance has caused student interest rates to rise :
Prior to H.R. 1911, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act, the interest rate was 3.4 percent, which was raised to 3.86 percent.
Interest rates on undergraduate Stafford loans taken out between July 1 and June 30, 2015 increased to 4.66 percent.
The ever-rising rates will likely not stop any time soon.
The Congressional Budget Office expects rates on Stafford loans to rise to 7.7 percent by 2018.
House Republicans have scheduled TWELVE DAYS to be in Washington for legislative votes (but most days are partial days as votes are not scheduled until 6:30 PM for the week’s start and end at 3PM for week’s end.)
House Republicans owe it to the American voters to allow a vote on Representative Sensenbrenner’s (R-WI-5) H.R.3899 : Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014. With 171 sponsors, why won’t they allow a vote ?
The League of Women Voters said it best :
H.R. 3899 is an important step forward for our democracy, where the right to vote is not about politics or the outcome of elections.
It is about equality and justice.
Our nation is strongest when all citizens can participate.