It’s demoralizing what Black, brown, native, and disabled people are subjected to in order to vote.
We’ve come a long way from forcing Black people to count jelly beans in a jar to be able to cast a vote, but significant barriers continue to exist. These can be seen in voter ID laws, which can, for instance, keep an elderly Black woman who was born without a formal birth certificate from casting a ballot. Other times, they can be found in the work of state and local elected officials actively working to make it more difficult to vote.
Thankfully, there are efforts at the federal level to address growing voter suppression at the state and local levels.
These efforts are cloaked in seemingly right-sounding rationales, like protecting the integrity of the vote. “We’re making it harder to cheat” is a common refrain. This argument belies the facts, however. The instances of voter fraud convictions are miniscule compared to the total votes cast.
Thankfully, there are efforts at the federal level to address growing voter suppression at the state and local levels. Congress is currently considering two bills: the Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4).
The Freedom to Vote Act is an adaptation of the For the People Act (S. 1) which was the previous marquee democracy reform bill. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (MN), Tim Kaine (VA), Angus King (ME), Jeff Merkley (OR), Alex Padilla (CA), Jon Tester (MT), Raphael Warnock (GA), and Joe Manchin (WV) developed the Freedom to Vote Act in the hopes of gaining the support of ten Republicans to break a filibuster.
The Freedom to Vote Act (FTVA) would:
- Expand early voting
- Make election day a federal holiday
- Expand mail-in voting
- Create national validation standards for voter ID
- Restore voting rights for the formerly incarcerated
- Ban gerrymandering
- Implement automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and online voter registration.
- Implement donor matching to confront the influence of big money in elections
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), meanwhile, would provide a check on certain jurisdictions from enacting voter suppression laws.
Both bills have passed the House, and now await action in the Senate. Unfortunately, however, many in Congress claim that these bills are a federal takeover of elections. Some fail to see the pernicious effects of voter suppression, especially in Black and brown communities.
It’s ugly to discuss, but the truth of the matter is that many of these same politicians benefit from voter suppression. That will make coming to terms on a solution that much more difficult—and underscores why we need to be persistent in our outreach to Congress.