Constitution Day Lecture raises awareness about modern day voter suppression

by Samantha Holm | Arts & Culture Editor

Dr. Kathryn Lee poses
Photo courtesy of Whitworth University faculty directory. Kathryn Lee is a political science professor at Whitworth University. She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. from the Johns Hopkins University and has written a number of influential publications. On the 234th anniversary of Constitution Day, she lectured on voting rights.

Every year, Whitworth commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution with a lecture about the document’s history and its effects on current political issues.

On Friday, Sept. 17, 234 years since the signing of the Constitution, Whitworth political science professor Kathryn Lee addressed the issue of voting rights in the Robinson Teaching Theatre.

At the beginning of her lecture, Lee asked students, “Who do we think should be part of the body politic?”

She followed this question by directly referencing Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, which decrees that states are ultimately responsible for when, where and how voting takes place.

When left up to states’ discretion, however, voting practices can become inequitable and unfair. Lee shed light on such practices, particularly the role they have played in barring African Americans, women, Native Americans and younger people from suffrage throughout history.

Even with the ratification of amendments that secured voting rights for these groups, unethical practices continue to this day. She used the example of Texas’ new restrictive voting policies.

Before delving further into the topic, she raised a glass of water to her lips and joked the beverage “needs to be stronger.”

Chuckles rippled through the audience, but Lee’s disapproval for Texas’ voting laws was palpable. Lee said the state’s decision to ban mail-in ballots, 24-hour voting and drive-thru voting will make it even more difficult for working people, students and minorities to vote.

Lee said her goal behind informing students of this instance of voter suppression was to arm the younger generation with knowledge so they can advocate for change. “If we give up, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, meaning that the country becomes less than it could be,” she said.

Students in attendance of the lecture were inspired by Lee’s call to action. Monica Kaylor, a senior and political science major, said, “While voting is a right, it is not something that is given to us. Americans need to band together and come out to vote. We need to protect that right because it is the essence of democracy.”

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