THE FIGHT - AND THE RIGHT - TO VOTE
Attorney Sherrilynn Ifill and journalist Ari Berman discuss nationwide efforts to suppress voting.
In the last four years, close to half the states in the US have passed laws restricting the right to vote, the most fundamental principle of democracy. A new nationwide effort to suppress the vote, nurtured by the Republican Party's desire to hold onto political power, fear and fierce resistance to inevitable demographic change, has hammered the country. Shelby County v. Holder, last year's Supreme Court decision revoking an essential provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, upped the ante and has encouraged many states to try to impose restrictive voter ID laws, as well as gerrymander congressional districts and limit registration and voting hours. The argument made in favor of this vast disenfranchisement is rampant voter fraud -- that people manipulate the system to cheat and throw elections. But in state after state, there is rarely proof of anyone showing up at the polling place and trying to illegally cast a ballot. This week Bill Moyers talks with an attorney and journalist, each of whom has been deeply involved in the ongoing vote suppression controversy. Sherrilynn Ifill is president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a noted civil rights litigator whose work has included landmark voting rights cases. She notes that, "A core tenet of the civil rights movement rested on the centrality of voting as an expression of citizenship and dignity in our republic." Ari Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation magazine and author of the upcoming book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. "Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting," he has written, "a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots."