Morrison: Time for Illinois Republicans to reclaim right to vote
By Sean Morrison Guest Columnist June 5, 2012 8:20PM
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:44AM
As American citizens, we are proud that “we the people” have the freedom and the right to vote for our leaders. No matter the party affiliation, in our democracy we, by a majority vote, choose our elected officials and grant them authority to act on our behalf.
What’s the point? Every citizen of the United States of America has the right to vote, right? That’s true today, but don’t forget that not so long ago not everyone enjoyed that precious right of citizenship.
Black men weren’t allowed to vote until 1868. Women could not do so until 1920, Native Americans until 1947 and Washington, D.C., residents until 1963.
OK, you say, you remember your civics lessons from grade school, but what does that have to do with 2012 and the freedom to vote for our elected officials?
Would you be surprised to learn that Republican voters in Illinois cannot vote for their party’s leadership, the state central committeemen? The right to vote for these officials was rescinded by legislation about 30 years ago.
Was it a Democrat plot? No, sadly the right of GOP voters to cast a ballot for this party office was taken away by the Republican Party elite. They granted such voting rights only to Republican township, ward and precinct committeemen, eliminating the citizen’s right to vote.
In the 1980s, then-Gov. James Thompson and Al Jourdan, who was then the state GOP chairman, engineered a change to state election law to allow this un-American process to choose state GOP committee members, much like the Soviets of old chose their Politburo.
Until this change, Republican Party Central Committee members were elected by voters during primary elections.
For years, a few tireless conservatives have been fighting in the Legislature to rescind that law and restore Republicans’ voting rights for their state central committee. A Senate bill that would do so has passed the Senate three times since 2005, but each time the House Republicans have stonewalled it.
The current state Republican chairman, Pat Brady, supports this denial of Illinois Republicans’ voting rights.
As Republicans and conservatives, we should be outraged at this. We should not have tolerated it at the time it was imposed, and we certainly should not tolerate it today. What message does this send, when Illinois Democrats have open elections for their central committee and the Republicans do not?
How can we claim to be the party of reform, of ethics and of family values? Are we truly conservative Republicans when we accept the usurpation of the basic right to vote from our citizens?
With the recent political trends regarding voting rights, it is difficult to accept the correct answers to these questions.
Our state leaders decide who our party leadership will be. We are not equal under the law, at least in the eyes of our Republican leaders. So, how do we change this destructive, undemocratic situation?
We need to give the Illinois Republican Party back to the people. On Saturday and Sunday, Republicans will have the opportunity to do just that during the Illinois Republican Convention at the Tinley Park Convention Center.
Please attend the convention and join like-minded conservatives and Republican organizations in the effort to restore our Republican Party voting rights. Call your precinct, township or ward committeeman and inform them that you want to regain your right to vote.
Most importantly, call chairman Pat Brady and give him the same message. Urge them to propose and support a motion at the state convention to return the people’s right to vote for the state central committee.
Sean M. Morrison, of Palos Park, is a businessman and the Palos Township Republican committeeman.