Ideas, not race or gender, should decide elections


By Holly Audette

Sunday, March 17, 2019

I moved to this area 19 years ago and faced a difficult truth: I wasn't going to be able to elect a Republican candidate of my choice in any partisan election.

Why? Was it because I had fewer rights? Because of any past restrictions to my voting rights? Because of what I looked like or a history of institutional discrimination against me?

No. The reason was simple: The area was overwhelmingly Democratic in both the number of registered voters and its elected officials. But wasn’t I “entitled” to elect a candidate of my choice? 

According to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, black Americans were entitled to exactly that. In every election voters whose candidates lose do not have an entitlement to elect a candidate of their choice. They have a right to fully participate in elections, recruit, be and/or advocate for candidates but not the right to elect a candidate of their choice.

So why this special entitlement for black Americans? It was provided to black Americans as a remedy. A remedy for being deprived of the right to fully participate like other citizens in elections. It was intended to right something very, very wrong. I fully support the imposition of that 1965 remedy.

Interestingly, the remedy was provided to voters actually deprived of fully participating in elections and their descendants who were not. But it was not granted to all voters who had been so deprived or their descendants, and it remains an entitlement for selective victims through court rulings addressing redistricting.

Many Americans do not realize women were deprived of participating in elections for 50 years after the 15th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed that right to black males. In 1965, women deprived of voting rights were precluded from this new entitlement to elect a candidate of choice granted as a remedy to black Americans and their descendants.

The modern feminist movement claims gender discrimination exists even today, so the explanation for preclusion cannot be that women had reached equity despite this constitutional deprivation that lasted 50 years longer. No special voting entitlement has ever been offered to women victims or their descendants.

When I moved here, there were few women in public office. That is still true. There were more black officeholders and that is still true. Yet our elections continue to be embroiled in the attempt to guarantee only some the special entitlement to elect a candidate of their choice. With the manipulation comes the conclusion by some that people vote a certain way based on what they look like, and that only black voters need special rights as a remedy and female voters don’t.

In the proclaimed effort to reach equality, the left supposedly wants all rights extended to all people. At the same time they support special rights be given to only some people and their descendants decades after constitutional and institutional equality, but not to others deprived for decades longer. This perpetuates an assumption some need more help than others, which may be doing significant damage in and of itself.

How do women tolerate being precluded from the remedy for deprivation of voting rights while advocating the need for the Equal Rights Amendment? How do black Americans tolerate the assumption they need a continued remedy other victims didn’t?

Redistricting should have nothing to do with what people look like — race or gender. Elections should be about ideas. It is the debate about ideas that has me — 19 years after moving here — witnessing some of my preferred candidates being elected. Ideas are convincing me and other voters about these candidates, not a guarantee by imposed special rights based on historic voting deprivation that perpetuates damaging assumptions. That is good for everyone.

Holly Audette is a small-business owner active in political and civic causes.