As I have said before, the demographics of our country are changing, and the change is tilting toward a greater number of Democratic or Democratic-leaning voters. According to the Gallup organization, as of February 2021, 49% of registered voters are Democratic or Democratic-leaning compared to 42% of Republican or Republican-leaning voters. The Republicans are scared. That is why there are now at least 253 bills restricting voting access in 43 state legislatures according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The Republicans are once again attempting to suppress the vote to prevent millions of citizens from exercising their right to participate in elections — because they realize that is the only way they can win.
In case those efforts fail, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) introduced H.R. 322 — the Save Democracy Act, which is, as of this writing, co-sponsored by 65 Republican representatives. Rep. Banks describes this bill as a tightening of election and voting requirements. I call it voter suppression, plain and simple. H.R. 322 has nothing to do with “saving democracy.” Let’s look at what the Republicans are proposing for federal elections:
- Prohibiting automatic voter registration
- Requiring a Social Security number to register to vote even though noncitizens authorized to work in the U.S. are eligible for a Social Security number
- Prohibiting the use of public ballot-collection boxes
- Requiring that absentee ballots be received by the close of Election Day
- Requiring a valid photo ID for in-person voting and absentee ballots
This proposed legislation is not about tightening election and voting requirements in the slightest. It is nothing more than an attempt by the Republican Party to codify voter suppression into federal law.
The Senate can prevent this antidemocratic proposal from becoming reality by voting for the Senate version of H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021.
This act would make voting more secure by mandating several new practices: requiring voter-verified paper ballots, preserving paper ballots for recounts, and recounting ballots by hand. It would require states to only use voting machines manufactured in the United States. It would also make access to voter registration easier by demanding that all states provide online voter registration — something that is already present in 40 states and the District of Columbia. It would even require automatic voter registration when eligible citizens interact with government agencies, such as when applying for a driver’s license.
The act also would make voting easier by:
- extending early voting to all 50 states
- requiring that no-excuse absentee ballots and mail-in ballot applications be sent to all registered voters at least 60 days before Election Day
- prohibiting notarization or witness signature requirements for mail-in ballots
- mandating designated ballot drop-off locations
- compelling states to begin processing mail-in ballots at least 14 days before an election
H.R. 1 would address restoration of the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which called for preclearance for changing voting rules in states with histories of discriminatory voting policies. It would ban partisan gerrymandering and require that states carry out congressional redistricting using independent commissions. It would also establish uniform rules that every state would be obligated to follow when drawing congressional districts.
The act imposes stricter ethical provisions to the executive, congressional, and judicial branches as well. These stricter provisions would address conflicts of interest. It would also prohibit House and Senate members and staff from advancing legislation that would enhance the financial interests of those members and their immediate families. Finally, under H.R. 1, presidents, vice presidents, and major-party candidates for those offices would be required to disclose their tax returns, making what has been a tradition (up until Trump) a law.
Unlike the Republican so-called Save Democracy Act, the For the People Act of 2021 is true election reform and needs to be passed to save our democracy. But for that to happen in our malapportioned Senate, the filibuster rule must be modified or eliminated. Only then will we have open and secure elections.
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