By Derrick Johnson, national President and CEO of the NAACP
Missouri voters currently have a rare opportunity in their hands: the chance to strike a victory for fairness and ethics in politics. As lifelong champions for civil rights, we know occurrences like this are too hard-won to be squandered.
The fight for justice in Missouri starts with restoring integrity, transparency, and accountability in our state government. Amendment 1 gives us a rare shot for desperately needed reforms to give power to the people.
Amendment 1 would make Missouri a national leader in protecting the voting power of communities of color. It requires that maps shall not result in “diminishing [racial or language minorities’] ability to elect representatives of their choice.” Passing Amendment 1 would give Missourians the rights and tools necessary to challenge unfair or racist gerrymandering—rights that currently do not exist in the state or federal law.
Amendment 1 would also eliminate gifts from lobbyists and require all legislative meetings and records to be open to the public. It would lower campaign contribution limits to put support for candidates within the reach of everyday Missourians—not just those with a corporate checkbook. And most importantly, it enshrines the Voting Rights Act into the Missouri Constitution to protect the rights of communities of color to be represented in the legislature. State leaders of conscience should welcome the chance to be held to the highest standards.
The fact is, big donors have too long held sway over Missouri politicians. Is it any wonder special interests’ wish lists end up far ahead of the needs of everyday constituents? Some might say the system is broken. We say it’s working exactly as it was designed — for the wealthy and well connected, and not for you and me.
Why do you think the legislature legalized discrimination by pushing a law that disenfranchises 220,000 voting-age Missourians who lack a state-issued photo ID? They are doing all they can to silence the voices of black, brown and young voters; and the folks working swing shifts or hourly jobs can’t leave their places of employment to get to the polls.
Of course, some politicians, powerful lobbyists, and big money donors are trying to stop Amendment 1. Why else would they want to eliminate all expensive lobbyist gifts when they take an average of nearly $900,000 every year in free trips, carts of liquor, and concert tickets?
They don’t want to stop big money to their own campaigns, or follow the Sunshine Law to make meetings and records open to the public. Instead, they have kept their records secret and kicked citizens and reporters out of public hearings. They don’t want to make districts more competitive, so that they can cater to big donors while ignoring voters back home.
The NAACP has a proud history of fighting for political equality for all citizens, which is why we are in full support of Amendment 1. It’s time we clean up Missouri politics and Amendment 1’s policies are strong reforms that have been vetted and endorsed by the Rev. Dr. Rodney E. Williams, NAACP Missouri State Conference, Missouri Jobs With Justice, Demos, MORE2, Pastor Michael Brooks, Communities Creating Opportunity, Rev. Tex Sample, Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould and Missouri Faith Voices.
A “yes” vote for Clean Missouri (Amendment 1), is a vote to put the power of our democracy back where it belongs—in the hands of the people. We cannot let this opportunity go to waste.
Learn more and get involved at www.cleanmissouri.org. Then vote YES on Amendment 1 this November to clean up Missouri politics.
Posted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on October 30, 2018.