Peduto, Fitzgerald Support Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Push for Constitutional Voting Rights Amendment

Sep 8, 2014

Rev. Jesse Jackson was in Pittsburgh Monday to drum up support for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (left) and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (right) have signed on to the effort.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Imagine for a moment that the Steelers had lost to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. As difficult as that would have been for die-hard fans, most would have accepted the outcome without questioning the integrity of the game.

That was the analogy Rev. Jesse Jackson used during a news conference with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald Monday morning.

“What (would have) made it possible for us to enjoy and accept the outcome?” Jackson asked , before following up with his answer. “The playing field is even, the rules are public, the goals are clear, the referees are fair, and the scores are transparent.”

But according to Jackson, the rules that govern voting rights in the United States are anything but clear, fair and transparent, which he said calls into question the integrity of our entire democratic system.

Pittsburgh on Monday became the second city in the nation to sign onto Jackson’s effort for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing citizens the right to vote. The first city was Cincinnati. Peduto said he expects Pittsburgh City Council to pass an official resolution imminently.

Peduto said of the 119 nations throughout the world that elect public officials, only 11 do not have the protected right to vote in their constitutions. One of those countries is the United States.

“Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Pakistan, Singapore, and the United Kingdom,” Peduto said. “It’s time for the United States to join the rest of the world in protecting its citizens.”

Allegheny County will be the first county in the nation to official sign on to Jackson’s effort. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he will introduce a resolution in County Council Tuesday to make that show of support official.

Fitzgerald said Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, which was struck down by a state judge in January as unconstitutional, brought voting rights issues to the forefront of public debate.

“And the one I think that stuck out for all of us was our former mayor, late Mayor (Sophie) Masloff, who didn’t have a driver’s license at the time and in essence was going to be denied the right to vote,” Fitzgerald said. “This is someone who had voted for decades, year after year, and never missed an election.”

Jackson said voting is a precursor to broad-based progressive changes.

“Those who vote can fight for student loan debt being reduced or eliminated, they can fight for ending Parent Plus loans, they can fight for livable wages,” Jackson said. “They can fight for all that America promises.”

Jackson urged the public to call their Congressional representatives and ask them to support House Joint Resolution 44, which would create a constitutional amendment granting “every U.S. citizen of legal voting age the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.”

That bill was introduced in May by Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, and was referred to the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice in June, where it remains.