Citizens’ right to vote must not be subverted

My father, Michele, was born in the 19th century, a subject in a country virtually owned by two people, the king and queen. He was proudly naturalized a U.S. citizen in 1927 and radiated that pride whenever he donned his only suit and walked eight blocks to the firehouse to vote. He never missed an election, whatever his health or the weather; and each time he reminded me: “I came across the ocean down in steerage, and that old boat brought me from Michele the subject to Michele the citizen. I got something to say, and every time I vote, this country she give me the right to say it!”

He deeply appreciated this country, for the rights and responsibilities like voting. For Michele, the right to vote was the supreme protective barrier between his new democracy and his old monarchy; between being a subject and being a citizen.

What would Michele think today about Republicans’ assault on his cherished right to vote? In at least nine key states, Republicans have maneuvered to deny the right to vote to thousands of citizens whom they fear would otherwise vote against them. I think there is no more certain way to destroy American democracy – strike at its heart, deny the vote to targeted people. Make no mistake, it is the Republicans who are doing it. They cannot bring back the monarchy, but certainly Republicans prefer rule by the elite, the powerful, the moneyed minority.

Michele understood that the right to vote is our defensive line, our barrier between democracy and totalitarian regimes. Were he here, he would tell these Republicans, in more colorful language, “stop messing with my vote!”

Anthony M. Graziano