College campuses across the country, including Del Mar, celebrated Constitution Day on Sept. 17, which commemorates the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
Anthony Champagne, a professor of political science at the University of Texas in Dallas, came to Del Mar College in honor of Constitution Day. He presented his lecture on “Voting Rights, the Constitution, and Partisan Politics” in the Venters Building on Del Mar College’s East Campus.
Champagne examined the background of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the importance of that law in expanding voting rights. Because of recent Supreme Court decisions significantly modifying that law, Champagne explored the political impact of new voting regulations such as voter identification laws and the legal implications of these new regulations.
University of Texas professor Anthony Champange talks to Del Mar students and staff about the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for Constitution Day.
“I think the most interesting thing about the effect of photo IDs is that they make a difference in closed elections,” Champagne said.
Champagne discussed a joint study by Rice University and the University of Houston on the 23rd Congressional District election in 2014. The district is known to be a large Latino district and the most competitive of all districts in the state.
“That year, Republican Bill Hurd defeated Democrat Pete Gallego by 2,400 votes,” Champagne said.
“This study surveyed the nonvoters, and the results were very interesting. Less than 3 percent of the people who didn’t vote lacked proper ID. Six percent said their primary reason of not voting was because they thought they didn’t have proper ID and 13 percent didn’t vote because one of the reasons was they thought they didn’t have proper ID. Four to five times as many of those nonvoters would have voted for the Democrat compared to Republican. Without voter ID, the Democrat would have won. Voter ID has made a huge impact when it comes to elections.”
Champagne also addressed the forthcoming Supreme Court case on redistricting and the concept of political representation. The 15th Amendment declares that the federal and state government cannot deny a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s race, color or previous condition of servitude. The Texas Voting Law challenges the constitutional amendment by making it difficult for citizens to vote, he said.
Constitution Day is another reminder how important certain rights are for citizens and by reflecting on this day in history, we as a society have definitely changed and interpreted the law differently from when it was originally ratified in 1788.