Rev. Jackson visits Pittsburgh, lobbies for right-to-vote amendment
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.