August 30, 2014 at 7:00 pm

‘Vote Suppression, Democratic Values, & Struggles for Voting Rights,’ Sept. 17

A Constitution Day panel on “Vote Suppression, Democratic Values, and Struggles for Voting Rights” is Wednesday, Sept. 17, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Clippinger 194,

The panel includes Daniel Tokaji, Professor of Law and Senior Fellow with Election Law @ Moritz, Ohio State University; Piers Turner, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and co-leader of the Democratic Governance group of the Ohio State University Center for Ethics and Human Values; and Ohio University’s Dr. Patricia Gunn, Associate Professor of Law in African American Studies.

Three lectures of 20-30 minutes each will be followed by open discussion.

This event is organized by Dr. Alyssa Bernstein, Director of the Ohio University Institute for Applied and Professional Ethics. It is co-sponsored by the Philosophy Department and the Center for Law, Justice, and Culture.

Gunn will discuss, from the point of view of Constitutional Law, the effect that deprivation of their legal right to vote had on African Americans in the context of the Civil Rights Movement.

Tokaji will give a talk on “Three Dimensions of the Right to Vote.”

Abstract: In recent years, voting rights advocates have become increasingly concerned about “vote suppression,” in the form of laws like voter ID that make it difficult for eligible citizens to vote and have their votes counted. Professor Tokaji will argue that vote suppression is real, but has been conceived of too narrowly. While most of the attention has focused on the right to participate, that is just one of three dimensions to the right to vote. Properly conceived, the right to vote includes not only participation but also representation and influence. It is in these latter areas where the most serious, yet less fully appreciated, threats to the right to vote exist. Practices that deny equal representation include partisan gerrymandering and racial vote dilution, while the vast sums spent on campaigns and lobbying imperil the ideal of equal influence. Professor Tokaji will argue that the U.S. Supreme Court, rather than providing solutions, has become part of the problem with respect to all three dimensions of the right to vote.

Turner will give a talk on “Democratic Values and Voting Rights.”

Abstract: Proposed reforms to the regulations around voting rights—such as those concerning voter ID and restrictions on early voting—are introduced against a background set of democratic values and commitments, including political equality, autonomy, public accountability, community, and stability. Proponents and critics alike have tended to focus on political equality and autonomy issues. The basic worry is that fraud (or, conversely, an overzealous effort to stamp out fraud) undermines the equality of influence fundamental to democratic decision-making by giving greater voice to (or suppressing the voice of) some set of individuals. This then affects the autonomy of some individuals by diminishing their say over the laws that bind them. These issues are important, but considerations of public accountability, community, and stability must also factor into our account of the value of voting rights. I argue that once these other democratic values are taken into account, the burden of proof is clearly placed on those who would make it more difficult to exercise one’s voting rights.


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