Voting Rights in Focus on Thursday

The right to vote is something Americans take for granted, but it's been one of the most controversial in the nation's history.

"It's a huge contradiction," says Nation reporter Ari Berman. "We are a great democracy and have exported freedom around the world, but we have always tried to limit this right for our citizens."
Berman will be in Salt Lake City Thursday evening to speak at the Salt Lake City Library as part of The Nation 150's Anniversary Speaker Series.
Most recently the fight over voting rights has centered on access to the polls. Berman says the images from the 2012 election of voters waiting for hours in line in places like Ohio and Florida should give us all pause.
"It's unacceptable. We cannot tolerate people being turned away from the polls for no good reason. We still have not fixed this problem, and it's still out there for 2016."
Berman's latest book is "Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America." He says the fight over voting rights, unfortunately, tends to break down along partisan lines.
"Republicans have been much more aggressive in pushing to limit the electorate in their favor. Philosophically, Democrats tend to do better in elections when more people are allowed to vote while Republicans do better with a smaller electorate. Generally speaking, Democrats support making it easier to vote while Republicans want to make it harder."
In 2013, the Supreme Court rolled back part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, ruling that some part of the country must have changes to their voting laws approved by a federal court or Congress. Since that ruling some states have moved to implement more restrictive voter ID laws, something they could not have done under the old law.
Berman hopes his talk on Thursday helps people understand the importance of getting people to the polls.
"This is a struggle that Utahns might not be too familiar with because they haven't had the same debates.  But, historically, this has been something that affects women, minorities, and younger people. Even today there are efforts to roll back these rights."
Berman speaks at the Downtown Salt Lake City Library on Thursday evening at 7. His talk is free and open to the public.