It’s time for Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act.
The legislation, a compromise from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., of the previous For the People and John Lewis Voting Rights acts, would secure democracy going forward by hindering dark money that plays far too large a role in elections. It also standardizes a federal voter ID law while still making access to the polls easy with several ways to vote, along with same-day registration and a standard 15 days for early voting.
The bill also would reasonably tackle the issue of gerrymandering — a Republican and Democrat problem — not only with bipartisan line-making for congressional districts, but the use of technology to show where and how those lines should be drawn.
It also would make the general election a national holiday, giving working people more time to get to the polls and cast their ballots.
West Virginia and many other states saw strong participation in the 2020 elections. Several states already had universal mail-in voting and same-day registration, but exceptions for remote voting, prompted by the pandemic, upped participation everywhere. What’s more, there was no widespread fraud under the unique circumstances, despite what some have falsely claimed. Exhaustive legal challenges and recounts seeking to validate the lie of fraud have only helped prove it was one of the most secure elections in this country’s history. That should be a good thing.
But, for some, it apparently worked a little too well. High turnout created results they didn’t like.
Democracy is always under threat, in some form or fashion, from those who look to bend the system to their will or desired outcome. But never has the threat been so obvious as now, with a former president, dangerously unhinged, perpetuating the lie that massive voter fraud cost him the 2020 election and Republican legislatures gladly hitching their wagons to that lie, in an effort to make free and fair elections as difficult as possible in their states, especially for minorities and the poor.
That’s not how democracy in the United States should work. Unfortunately, it’s hardly a new trick, just the most audacious, so far.
There have always been voting restrictions, because politicians and their backers want an assured victory, to preserve or enhance their status quo. After slavery was ended, Southern states enacted Jim Crow laws, because they were terrified about how Black Americans would vote. Women in this country had to fight for the right to vote for nearly three-quarters of a century before it was finally granted.
These new voices were feared by the previously unchallenged white patriarchy because of their ideals, but also because they were new variables to the equation.
When more people vote, voting outcomes become less predictable for those who have benefited from the system as it previously existed, and that’s their primal fear.
Equality for minorities in voting was finally achieved through the Civil Rights Act, but a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision undermined some of the most essential aspects of those rights, and legislators with bad intent have been chipping away at voting access ever since. Only now, they’ve dropped the chisels and taken out the jackhammers.
It’s been said many times, but bears repeating, that constituents should choose who represents them, not the other way around.
The Freedom to Vote Act is the right way forward, and it should become law. Anyone in Congress who opposes it is only showing they are afraid that, without obstacles stacking the odds in their favor, they can’t win an election. That just goes to show how broken the system is.
Elected officials should always consider who they’re representing first, rather than prioritizing schemes to make sure they stay where they are, which often happens to be insulated from the people while serving the needs of wealthy donors.
That has to end, and this is the way to do it.