When I was Governor of Maine, I made a bet with my colleague, Jesse Ventura of Minnesota, which of our states would have a higher turnout. As we’ve seen, that’s what our system is all about—the more participation we promote in our democratic process, the more our government can recognize and respond more effectively to the challenges facing our citizens.
It seems the mindset has changed over the past few decades. Over the past year, legislatures in 19 states have enacted laws that make it harder for Americans to exercise their right to vote. These laws will disproportionately harm low-income Americans, communities of color, individuals with disabilities, and other historically disenfranchised groups. Instead of answering the problems these voters face, these legislatures have prioritized adding new barriers to the basic act of voting.
I really don’t know if these laws will be detrimental to one side or the other — you just have to look at the recent cassation results in often blue Virginia to see that Republicans can still win competitive races with a large number of voters. But whatever the political ramifications, these laws pose a threat to the fragile American experiment that promises a government of, by, and for the people—all. To maintain democracy (lowercase ‘d’), Congress must act to protect voting rights for all citizens. The point of democracy must be the number of people participating the most; anything little betrays our ideals.
In the Senate, I supported two bills that would introduce common voting protections to ensure that no state can enact legislation that violates their citizens’ right to vote. First, Freedom of Voting Act, includes widespread provisions including unexcused absentee voting, voting by mail, and the designation of Election Day as a federal holiday. Second thing, John Lewis Voting Rights Promotion Act, would be even less controversial — the bill would reinstate the Voting Rights Act, which was most recently re-authorised agreed base in 2006, 98-0. Sixteen years later, only one Republican in the Senate has endorsed this previously uncontroversial proposal.
Republicans launched the attack after the attack against these bills, claiming that any proposed changes to the election law must go through a bipartisan process while refusing to actually participate in the election. any bipartisan negotiations. I have long said that I would welcome my GOP colleagues to the negotiating table to build consensus, but throughout the months of our work, those invitations have been consistently declined. But their lack of participation does not mean that the bill was not widely popularized by the American people. In fact, polls show that the provisions of these bills enjoy broad bipartisan support across the country — almost everywhere, except in Congress.
The final irony here? Each of the 19 states that enacted new voting restrictions did so on a purely partisan basis, led by Republican lawmakers. We are indeed seeing a partisan effort to change the shape of our democracy — but it’s not coming from the Democratic Party.
This is not a new challenge; In fact, Congress faced this exact issue in the summer of 1890, when the House of Representatives passed legislation introduced by Henry Cabot Lodge to protect African Americans’ suffrage. The act was a direct response to voter suppression laws at the state level – but in the face of partisan divides, the bill made its way into the Senate and was announced as early as 1891.
The result: for the next 75 years, African-Americans were blocked from voting by poll taxes, unfair literacy tests, and public intimidation to vote. Growing up in Virginia in the 1950s, I witnessed first-hand how the legacy of that decision affected my Black neighbors, even generations to come. As I think about that era and the vote we will soon face in the Senate, I find myself thinking back to an old Protestant hymn we used to sing at church in our youth:
“Once for everyone and every country
Come a moment to decide”
We have reached that point. I have long been reluctant to change my mind on any policy issue, believing that bipartisan efforts produce stronger, more effective legislation in the long run. But this is not a matter of policy – it is a matter of the basic infrastructure of democracy. Of all the checks and balances our Founders designed, the most important is the ability of citizens to replace leaders who are serving them poorly. If that check is impaired, the rest of the system is inoperative.
In the winter of 1891, a number of elected officials used galloping action to push our country further away from its founding ideals over the past century; we shouldn’t make the same mistake in the winter of 2022. The great British historian Arnold Toynbee once said “civilizations die by suicide, not by murder”. I can’t bear to see that happen in the United States of America — if we’re going to protect our democracy for future generations, we can’t let a Senate rule get in the way. our most basic principles.
https://time.com/6139301/voting-rights-filibuster/ The right to vote is more important than the right to vote