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Donna Brazile on Dr. King's voting-rights legacy

DNC vice chair Donna Brazile has a great piece on CNN.com today, exploring one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s most important legacies: the fight for all Americans to cast a ballot. It's a legacy that is under attack today by an unprecedented Republican-led voter suppression effort that is popping up in statehouses across the country.

Brazile writes:

In a 1957 speech titled "Give Us The Ballot," Dr. King spoke plainly about the imperative of equal voting rights.

"So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind—it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact—I can only submit to the edict of others."

For Dr. King, the right to vote was sacrosanct and foundational. It is the very essence of our social contract. Free elections create legitimacy. They imply the consent of the governed. He knew that unfair elections laws did not just hurt minorities or the working poor, they rendered hollow the very essence of American government.

It's a message that's as true today as it was then. The 47-year old Voting Rights Act has stood the test of time, but there are new obstacles to the ballot springing up in today's America.

Around the country, conservatives in state legislatures are attempting to put fresh roadblocks in the path of this most basic right. The latest vogue in anti-suffrage legislation is mandatory photo ID laws. …

According to a study published in 2006 by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, as many as 23 million American citizens -- that's 11% of those of voting age -- lack the government-issued photo ID many of these laws demand. …

Dr. King demanded that all Americans be given the ballot. We must demand today that we keep it. Demand to keep the ballot because our laws must be made by all of us. Demand to keep the ballot because an election where 23 million can't vote is an election that undermines democracy.

Read the full editorial here.