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Votes

Column: Backsliding in Richmond

As we approach the halfway point of the 2012 legislative session, I like to take a moment to reflect on the path that we in Richmond have taken so far this year. It also makes me think of leaders that have come before like Alice Paul and Fannie Lou Hamer. These women stood tall and proud for the fundamental rights that we are supposed to be guaranteed here in America. They endured second-class citizenship and lack of representation one because of gender and the other continuing to be discriminated against because of skin color a generation after the first.

Especially as we honor our African American heritage during Black History Month, I find wisdom in Hamer’s famous quote, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” This year in the General Assembly, in both the House and Senate, there have been bills filed to require photo identification before being allowed to vote. In the House and despite much protest, a measure passed that ends the ability of a registered voter without id to sign a sworn affidavit to their identity and cast their vote normally.

This begs the question — why do some people want to make it harder for Virginians to vote? More importantly, when did we stop trusting each other to the point that a sworn statement is worthless? I am against any measure that takes away from the legacy of ballot access for which my forerunners fought. Even a measure, like HB 9, that only takes a small step backward is a step too far.

Charniele Herring (D-46) serves as the House Democratic Whip and represents Alexandria City in the Virginia General Assembly. She serves on the Courts of Justice and Science and Technology Committees. For more information, visit www.charnieleherr... or on twitter @c_herring.

I find this timely as we consider the legacy of the civil rights. The more dangerous of these types of legislation requires photo identification. Eighteen percent of seniors over 65 years of age and up to 15 percent of minorities and low income Americans do not have the proper identification under these proposed laws. In addition to the problems posed for the individuals through this modern equivalent to a poll tax, there is also a cost to the state, which is already making tough cuts to health, education and public safety programs.

I will stand strong and speak out on civil rights, because I too am “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and will not stand for backsliding when it comes to our fundamental American right to vote.

By Charniele Herring

State Delegate (D-46)