Ronan Farrow Daily   |  April 09, 2014

Time for an upgrade to the voting system?

The 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act comes at a time of fevered controversy about civil rights today with many states enacting voter ID requirements, voter roll purges and restrictions on voting hours. Fmr. United Nations Amb. Andrew Young, who was also a former top aide to Martin Luther King Jr., discusses with Ronan Farrow.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> a few hours, some news about another era of violence and injustice. president clinton is going to deliver a major speech at a summit marking a moment that transformed the united states . that is the 50th anniversary of the civil rights act . sources familiar with president clinton 's remarks tell " ronan farrow daily" exclusively that this speech will focus on the importance of compromise to overcome political disagreements, and lady bird johnson once said, quote, the clash of ideas is the sound of freedom . clinton is one of four presidents to address this summit. president obama speaks tomorrow. the summit comes at a time of fevered controversy about civil rights . today many states enacting voter i.d. requirements, voter role purges and restrictions on voting hours that disproportionately keep minorities away from the polls. the question some are posing at this point, is it time for a new movement. and specifically, a new voting rights act . joining us right now is ambassador young who worked side by side with dr. king as a negotiator for campaigns in selma and birmingham that resulted in the voting rights act . ambassador young, thank you so much for being here.

>> a pleasure to join you.

>> thank you for that. in your op-ed today, you called the voting system , quote, broken. what specifically do you see as the biggest problem that needs to change?

>> well, the biggest problem is that governments don't want everybody to vote. people are trying a variety of ways to limit the vote, when the one thing that our democracy requires is full participation. it's not just minorities. it's the senior cit's people without transportation, it's the poor. and our democracy to be vibrant and real, dealing with the issues that affect all our lives, needs to be open to everybody. of the top 150 nations in the world, we're about 1/38th in voter turnout . that's obscene. america's ideals of freedom require us to be number one. we could do that simply with the congress coming together and saying, let's have a new voting rights bill, or the president could simply issue an executive order saying that our social security cards need to have a picture on it. that would give us a photo i.d. for banking, for at the grocery store check cashing. you can't get in a hotel without a photo i.d. but it's difficult to come by. a social security card with your photo i.d. on it would allow you to fly an airplane, for instance, or get on a plane.

>> right. and that would allow everybody access to the polls.

>> that would allow everybody access to the polls, yeah.

>> you talk about how broken things are. it is also true that there are new pew numbers out today that shows access to the states got better from the 2012 elections. can you feel that contests the claims you're making that we're back sliding?

>> no, i -- i think what those numbers indicate is that the president and young people are finding ways to use technology to deal with the obstructions. but us senior citizens who aren't that comfortable with technology need to vote, too.

>> ambassador young, one thing that you cry again and again in that op-ed that we're talking about is what you call the death of the courage of compromise. we also just heard that that may be a theme that comes up in president clinton 's remarks. there was a great deal of bipartisan compromise to pass the bra. there is certainly an apparent lack of that, if you look at the hill today. who do you think the worst perpetrator of that lack of compromise is on the hill right now?

>> well, i think right now, it's the time in which we live. i think that we -- when we did away with the seniority system , when we had this rapid turnover in congress, we have a pure democracy , which quite often represents chaos. there's almost nobody in any party that can mobilize a consensus, unlike the days of lyndon johnson in the senate and mr. sam rayburn in the house. when sam said it needed to get done, it got done. we don't leave our leadership there long enough. now, i'm not taking a position -- well, i am taking -- i don't like term limits . the reason i don't like term limits is it maximizes the power of the staffs, and the staffs are the most uncontrollable, unelected force in our government. and they are the ones that are most subject to external influence of people with money .

>> two very specific suggestions there, end term limits and social security cards with photos. interesting approach to this. ambassador young, as we part ways, i did want to ask you, you were so close to dr. king. what do you think he would say to barack obama ? apparently he in his era was not shy about pushing presidents. what do you think he would tell our president to do next?

>> i think he would be very sympathetic to president obama . i think he would be very proud of him for pushing ahead on the health care legislation. i think he would be proud that he withdrew our troops from afghanistan, and iraq. and i think he would be encouraging that we realize that war does not answer problems, and that we're going to have to talk to our enemies, especially and including iran.

>> all right. thank you so much, dr. young.

>> we don't have to be enemies.

>> i hope you'll come back on for a conversation about that. really appreciate your stand on this through all of your years. very inspiring. thank you.

>> thank you very much.

>> and remember, everyone, all week we're asking you to take a stand yourselves on equality. states are imposing a lot of those new limits on early voting and they disproportionately affect people of color . for call to action , we're asking you to contact your secretary of state or lieutenant governor and demand more hours of early voting . let us know what your rep says on facebook, twitter, or e-mail. we'll be covering your responses. stay