November 1, 2013

Students Explore Democratic Voting and Prepare for Election Day

VALDOSTA – With this year’s Election Day a few days away, students at Valdosta State University examine the history of voting in the United States.

“Today, voting rights are often not considered as serious as they once were,” said Toshunia Ammons, student. “However, history shows that democratic voting has not been easily obtained and is the result of several decisions by the Supreme Court and Congress.”

This semester, Ammons and other classmates have closely examined the 15th amendment as well as various court cases that deal with voting, including Plessy v. Ferguson, South Carolina v. Katzenbach and Katzenbach v. Morgan. Ammons is one of several students who attended a seminar on voting and the Constitution held last month during VSU’s celebration of the Constitution. A portion of the seminar was student led and included sessions titled Democratic Challenges in the Old Order, Departing the Old Order I, Departing the Old Order II, Staying the Course, Signaling Change and Explaining the New Order. The sessions provided insight on old Jim Crow laws, which placed limitations on voting, rulings that gave more minorities the opportunity to vote and recent laws and rulings that support limitations on voting.

“Democratic voting is the very essence of self-government and consists of having the people be party to the decisions that govern their lives,” said Dr. Marc Pufong, professor of public law and political science. ““Democratic voting, then, is essential to all countries that profess to be a democracy.”

Pufong has challenged his students to study new voter ID laws as well as the recent ruling in the Shelby County v. Holder landmark Supreme Court case, which eliminated a portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This portion mandated that certain states needed preclearance before enacting laws to deny voting rights to citizens.

“We should be concerned if the potency of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is diminished by the very court that, in the past, sustained and championed its relevance,” said Pufong. “Right now, some 29 states have some combination of restrictive and voter ID laws on the book. On the other hand, some 19 states have some legislation, or are moving towards passing one, that expands voting access to all American citizens. Those things set in place to increase voting activity include early voting, same day registration and online voting.”

Throughout the semester, several offices and organizations at VSU have also encouraged students to participate in the upcoming general and special election. In addition to voter registration booths run by various student groups, the Office of Student Life has served as a hub for voter information - allowing students to register to vote until the Oct. 7 deadline, providing information on absentee voting and answering questions regarding voting at school versus voting in one’s hometown.

This year’s election day is Tuesday, Nov. 5.

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