Americas

Protecting the Right to Vote

I am one of you, and I am worried like you about our nation: the large number of unemployed, American competitiveness, the need and cost of health care, the improvement necessary to education in our nation and the impact of all our basic needs on a rising deficit.

But there is a special fear. More than anything else, I am terrified by the threat that now exists to the most basic element of our democracy.

There is no right more fundamental to our republic than the right to vote. And yet there is a countrywide effort to prevent hundreds of thousands of people from voting.

Many supporters of that suppression effort have admitted or implied that its purpose is to win an election by preventing voters thought to be of a different political persuasion from voting at all. If the election were to be decided because of that effort, then a poison will have been injected in the blood of our democracy. And that represents as great a danger to our democracy as has ever existed within our borders.

If that effort succeeds, we will have become a false democracy.

I am 80 years old and retired from the work that made me rich. Among the many things that contributed to my wealth is the political society in which it was earned. The voter suppression effort is a direct assault on that society and on the democracy that it created. We who have the blessing of our millions need to know that protecting our assets demands preserving the democracy that made them possible.

I have pledged $1 million to prevent an outcome that would elect any candidate on the basis of having excluded, in order to win, a segment of our population from voting.

The money and whatever is contributed by all of you will be channeled to nonpartisan organizations established specifically to combat voter suppression now and in the future.

Our democracy needs us to defeat the lethal assault being made on it.

Everyone must have the right to vote. It is wise and necessary that you join in that effort.

Please contact the Brennan Center for Justice at (646) 292-8359 or brennancenter@nyu.edu to make a contribution. Read more about the Center's Election 2012 voting work at www.brennancenter.org/content/election2012.

William Louis-Dreyfus is a French-born American businessman. His net worth was estimated at $3.4 billion by Forbes in 2006. His open letter first appeared in a full-page New York Times ad.

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