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Rev. Jackson visits Pittsburgh, lobbies for right-to-vote amendment

Jason Cato
| Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, 12:32 p.m.
Rev. Jesse Jackson answers questions in City Council Chambers at the City County Building after speaking with City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and Pittsburgh City Council members on right-to-vote legislation in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson was visiting as a part of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, encouraging a constitutional amendment declaring every US citizen of legal voting age to have the 'fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Rev. Jesse Jackson answers questions in City Council Chambers at the City County Building after speaking with City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and Pittsburgh City Council members on right-to-vote legislation in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson was visiting as a part of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, encouraging a constitutional amendment declaring every US citizen of legal voting age to have the 'fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.'
Rev. Jesse Jackson (front right) talks in City Council Chambers at the City County Building with City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (center), Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (back left), and Pittsburgh City Council members on right-to-vote legislation in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson visited the city with Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, speaking on creating an explicit and written declaration of the right to vote for US citizens of voting age.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Rev. Jesse Jackson (front right) talks in City Council Chambers at the City County Building with City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (center), Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (back left), and Pittsburgh City Council members on right-to-vote legislation in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson visited the city with Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, speaking on creating an explicit and written declaration of the right to vote for US citizens of voting age.
Rev. Jesse Jackson (right) listens to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (left) field a question during talks in City Council Chambers at the City County Building with City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (center), and Pittsburgh City Council members on right-to-vote legislation in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson visited the city with Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, speaking on creating an explicit and written declaration of the right to vote for US citizens of voting age.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Rev. Jesse Jackson (right) listens to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (left) field a question during talks in City Council Chambers at the City County Building with City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (center), and Pittsburgh City Council members on right-to-vote legislation in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson visited the city with Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, speaking on creating an explicit and written declaration of the right to vote for US citizens of voting age.
Rev. Jesse Jackson talks with Pittsburgh City Council members about right-to-vote legislation in City Council Chambers at the City County Building in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson was visiting as a part of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, encouraging a constitutional amendment declaring every US citizen of legal voting age to have the 'fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Rev. Jesse Jackson talks with Pittsburgh City Council members about right-to-vote legislation in City Council Chambers at the City County Building in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson was visiting as a part of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, encouraging a constitutional amendment declaring every US citizen of legal voting age to have the 'fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.'
Microphones frame the face of Rev. Jesse Jackson as he talks with Pittsburgh City Council members about right-to-vote legislation in City Council Chambers at the City County Building in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson was visiting as a part of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, encouraging a constitutional amendment declaring every US citizen of legal voting age to have the 'fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Microphones frame the face of Rev. Jesse Jackson as he talks with Pittsburgh City Council members about right-to-vote legislation in City Council Chambers at the City County Building in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson was visiting as a part of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, encouraging a constitutional amendment declaring every US citizen of legal voting age to have the 'fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.'
Rev. Jesse Jackson laughs in City Council Chambers at the City County Building as he wraps up talks on right-to-vote legislation in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson visited the city with Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, speaking on creating an explicit and written declaration of the right to vote for US citizens of voting age.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Rev. Jesse Jackson laughs in City Council Chambers at the City County Building as he wraps up talks on right-to-vote legislation in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson visited the city with Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, speaking on creating an explicit and written declaration of the right to vote for US citizens of voting age.
Allen Parker (far left) of Downtown, takes a photo of his friend Yvette Lomax (center) and Rev. Jesse Jackson (right) after stopping Jackson on the street outside of the City County Building in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson visited the city with Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, speaking with local politicians on creating an explicit and written declaration of the right to vote for US citizens of voting age.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Allen Parker (far left) of Downtown, takes a photo of his friend Yvette Lomax (center) and Rev. Jesse Jackson (right) after stopping Jackson on the street outside of the City County Building in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson visited the city with Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, speaking with local politicians on creating an explicit and written declaration of the right to vote for US citizens of voting age.
Rev. Jesse Jackson (center) smiles as he prepares to take a photo with City of Pittsburgh aides after talks in City Council Chambers on right-to-vote legislation in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson visited the city with Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, speaking on creating an explicit and written declaration of the right to vote for US citizens of voting age.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Rev. Jesse Jackson (center) smiles as he prepares to take a photo with City of Pittsburgh aides after talks in City Council Chambers on right-to-vote legislation in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson visited the city with Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, speaking on creating an explicit and written declaration of the right to vote for US citizens of voting age.
Rev. Jesse Jackson waves at people the street outside of the City County Building in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson visited the city with Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, speaking with local politicians on creating an explicit and written declaration of the right to vote for U.S. citizens of voting age.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Rev. Jesse Jackson waves at people the street outside of the City County Building in Downtown on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Jackson visited the city with Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 'Right-To-Vote' campaign, speaking with local politicians on creating an explicit and written declaration of the right to vote for U.S. citizens of voting age.

Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are poised to become the country's first one-two punch of local governments to support a quest by the Rev. Jesse Jackson to amend the Constitution to guarantee all Americans the right to vote.

“We have a very special opportunity in Pittsburgh,” Mayor Bill Peduto said on Monday before Jackson addressed a special meeting of City Council.

Jackson, 72, a longtime civil rights activist, is calling for a constitutional amendment that would allow for a uniform, national voting standard.

Such legislation is pending in the House.

“If we can get a constitutional amendment, we can take a lot of state manipulation out of play,” he said.

Should Pittsburgh officials endorse the call for such an amendment, the city would join Cincinnati, which did so last month. A joint effort by city and county leaders would be the first of its kind in the country, Peduto and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.

City and county councils are expected to introduce resolutions on Tuesday.

Jackson said, “This is so that you're not impeded by someone else's scheme to limit your access. That's the bottom line.”

Pennsylvania lawmakers drew attention when Republicans in 2012 passed one of the nation's strictest voter identification laws requiring nearly all of the state's 8.2 million voters to show photo identification. Democrats protested the law, which was not enforced pending the outcome of a court challenge.

A Commonwealth Court judge this year declared it unconstitutional, and Gov. Tom Corbett said he would not appeal the ruling.

“We have seen in Pennsylvania and around the country a rash of measures to make it harder for people to vote, which is a bad thing, and it raises suspicions of voter suppression when the justification for those laws doesn't exist,” said Vic Walczak, legal director for ACLU of Pennsylvania.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, said he would examine a voting rights amendment should one be introduced in the Senate. In the past, he supported the Voting Rights Act pitched by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and blasted voter ID laws such as the one struck down in Pennsylvania.

Jackson said a constitutional amendment is the right thing to do, and the right way to do it is by starting with local government officials calling on Washington representatives to make it happen.

“Pittsburgh is a key city for the spirit of America,” Jackson said. “This is the right place, at the right time, to share the leadership of Pittsburgh's vision for this state and this nation.”

Natasha Lindstrom contributed to this report. Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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