Pass H.R.1 For the People Act to Protect Our Voting System
Whichever side of the political fence you stand, both Republicans and Democrats should be sharing the collective victory that in the 2020 elections, voter turnout reached the highest ever: nearly 258 million ballots were cast, making up almost two-thirds of all eligible voters (more than 6 in 10 people). What made it even more significant is that voting in 2020 came with a risk of catching the coronavirus if a voter chose to vote on the day of election. But that did not deter millions from going to the polls.
Another collective victory for both Republicans and Democrats is that after recounts, after independent review (with bipartisan observers) of the election process, there were no reports of massive errors or widespread fraud that could have changed the outcome of any election.
Record breaking turnout. Elections review showed clean and accurate results. Everyone should be happy, right? Apparently not.
GOP Introduces More Restrictions On Voting
As part of a national push, Republicans at state legislatures in this session have introduced 250 new laws in 43 states to limit voting by mail or early in-person voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
These new proposals aim to narrow eligibility to vote absentee, to curtail the use of ballot boxes and to eliminate automatic registration for absentee voting which forces voters to reapply each election. On absentee voting, there are extreme proposals to add ID, notary or witness requirements.
In some states, there are proposals to allow absentee voting only for voters 65 and over, people with disabilities and those who will be away on election day (with proof of travel such as a plane ticket). There even have been moves to ban absentee voting altogether.
Both mail/absentee voting and early in-person voting are the primary reasons voter turnout was so high in 2020. Both methods also have been proven to be preferred for minorities, not just in 2020, but in the last two election cycles.
With more restrictions on both mail and in-person voting, basically the outcome would be to steer more voters to vote on election day (which traditionally has favored the GOP). Elections officials say such restrictions would make long lines at precincts even longer, and could very well discourage voting.
On top of these restrictions, Republican state lawmakers have also introduced legislation to make voting on election day more difficult with stricter ID requirements and limiting hours, even reducing the number of precincts.
Some of the new proposed restrictions for voting on election day are so blatantly sabotaging that the goal cannot be interpreted other than Republicans want less people to vote.
For example Georgia Republicans propose to ban “line-warming” activities – no water will be allowed to be passed out to people waiting in line or no rain ponchos or blankets to keep warm (it’s already cold in November during the general election on the mainland).
In Alabama there is a proposal to eliminate straight-ticket voting, which is bound to delay voting and further add to longer lines.
What’s Really At Work Here
It’s clear Republicans want more restrictions. Republican lawmakers — whether they believe there was election fraud as President Donald Trump falsely claimed — are introducing all of these voting hurdles to appease their political base who actually believe there was fraud in 2020. But this is the less innocuous of the two reasons. The second, more insidious one, is to sway elections in their favor. Absentee voting has been supported by Republicans for years prior to 2020. The pandemic enabled millions more to vote absentee and they just do not like the results.
It’s not about shoring up public confidence in elections or voting integrity. The 2020 election has already been proven to be accurate with a few anomalies that would not have changed results. It’s about voter suppression to rig an outcome – which is the most damaging assault on our democratic process.
The likelihood of more restrictions passing is very high. Of the 38 states that are controlled by one party (both legislative chambers and the governorship), 23 of them are Republican compared to 15 Democratic. And if the tighter restrictions happen to be adopted into law in battleground states, this could be the difference that could sway any race in the GOP’s favor.
H.R.1 For the People Act
To counter the massive restrictive election proposals at state legislatures, the US Congress recently passed H.R.1 For the People Act which aims to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, limit partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders.
Specifically on voting, H.R.1 would expand automatic registration and allow for two-weeks of early voting across all 50 states. It also aims to beef up mail-in voting. Clearly, these proposals are exactly opposite of what the GOP are working to pass at the state level.
The difference between the two is the Republican initiatives are more likely to discourage voting; while the Democrat initiatives (which should be a bipartisan effort) want higher and secure voter turnout.
H.R.1 is bound to be opposed by GOP members in the Senate and would only pass by skirting the filibuster (requiring 60-vote supermajority for approval), like what Senate Democrats had to do to pass the last Covid Relief Bill.
The goal for all Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, should be to improve access to all who are qualified to vote. Higher voter turnout equals actualizing as close as possible the true will of the people. This is why H.R.1 must pass in the US Senate. It’s a pro-democracy legislation and would stop voter suppression currently at work at state legislatures.