“My name is Michael Anthony Hardy. I am a United States Citizen; a lifelong Democrat; and General Counsel and Executive Vice President of the National Action Network. National Action Network is one of the nation’s foremost social justice organizations. I firmly believe that at this time in our nation’s history, the Democrat Party must stand for a strong Democracy.
I am submitting this video testimony to urge our convention to adopt a platform plank calling for full participation in the presidential primary process for all citizens regardless of race, gender or formal political affiliation. It’s time to once again place fundamental principles of popular sovereignty and full participation in our electoral process upfront in our platform if we are truly to be Democrats and if we truly want to fight to be a proud Democracy.
I was one of many who sat inside the U.S. Supreme Court on a brisk February morning in 2013 when the arguments were made in the Shelby County v. Holder regarding the Constitutionally of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. We all know the history of the struggle and the blood of Americans that soaked our soil to win the right to vote. We were shocked by the Court’s decision to strike down Section 4 of the VRA and thereby gut the power of Section 5’s pre-clearance requirements. We knew this was a dark day in our history and that it would lead to serious efforts to limit voting rights.
Seventeen states, as widely documented by the Brennan Center, will have voting restrictions in place for the first time in a Presidential election. They include: photo ID laws, early voting cutbacks and registration restrictions. These restrictions impact the very voters once protected by the VRA.
Additionally, for the first time, the inclusion of independent voters – now 41% of the electorate – in the presidential primary process has become a matter of broad public discussion. In some states, the primaries were open to independents, in others they were not. It is estimated that over 30 million Americans were denied the right to vote in the presidential primaries because they were independents.
What we are seeing is a broadening of the traditional voting rights agenda.
The modern Democratic Party has led the way in the fight for fair and equal access to the vote for all Americans and we must continue doing so. More is at stake in this election than who wins. The legitimacy of our government depends on acceptance by the people that the electoral system is fair, open and democratic. We will never break the partisan gridlock in Congress, until and unless every voter has a meaningful vote in the presidential election process.
I urge our convention to adopt a platform plank calling for full participation in the presidential primary process and for Congress to revive section 5 of the 1965 VRA.”