For the People Act’s Demise Is Temporary; Greater Effort Must Go Into Its Passage
Post 2020 elections, there has been two drives to change our voting system. On one side, GOP-majority State Legislatures successfully passed new voting laws that would make it more restrictive and difficult for voters from the midterm elections and onward.
On the other side, Democrats, who represent the majority in both chambers of Congress, failed to pass the For the People Act or H.R.1 which would have basically nullified the new restrictive laws passed by states, and make way for easier and expanded voting rights in a first uniformed prescription on voting by federal law.
But it’s not the end all for both tracks on changing our voting system. The new state restrictive laws are bound to face legal challenges with the US Justice Department already having filed suit, along with the ACLU and civil rights groups. This could tie up the implementation of the new laws.
On the federal side, the blocking of H.R.1 is chapter one, as other means of pursuing federal voting reform are being explored, including the abolishment of the filibuster in place of a simple majority (51+), which would make H.R.1 feasible to pass.
Or another federal bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act or H.R.4, could thwart at least parts of some of these new restrictive bills. H.R.4 while not prescriptive and specific, has a clause in it that requires states with a history of voting discrimination, must get federal pre-clearance before changing voting laws. Its basic function is to stop discriminatory voting before it happens.
The Better Choice is a No-Brainer
Clearly having expanded, more accessible voting lands on the side of justice and democracy. And opinion polls show strong favorability for both. Data for Progress poll found overwhelming support for the For the People Act: 77% of Democratic voters, 68% of independent voters, and 56% of Republican voters.
Over 70% of Americans believe in-person early voting should be made easier, 69% support establishing national guidelines for voting, and a majority support expanding vote-by-mail as well.
Say voting security is an issue (the main reason purportedly for enacting these new restrictive laws), it should be known that H.R.1 also seeks to enhance security measures.
As for federal overreach (the second most important reason antagonists to H.R.1 cite), the coronavirus pandemic showed that there needs to finally be a national, uniformed standard in voting to ensure that future elections run smoothly in emergency situations. Having had a federal guide to voting before the pandemic, could very well have minimized much of the skepticism brought up in the 2020 election.
The Real Intent Behind Voter Restriction Laws
This last point suggests security is not the true reason behind restrictive voting laws. Rather it’s a political one, and really about suppression for political gain.
Take mail-in voting as an example, it has been a part of the voting process for years and largely accepted by both parties. Why the sudden fuss over it and adopting laws to restrict it? The massive mail-in vote made possible in 2020 (to minimize the coronavirus from spreading) proved to be golden for Democrats.
You can look at each example one by one where changes in voting laws have occurred, you will find changes were made that will most likely impact minorities. And by extension, Democrats.
Additionally, seeking stronger voting security measures would make sense in its timing if 2020 was tainted by fraud, as President Donald Trump claims it was.
But it wasn’t. This is the fact.
The Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council (GCC), the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) said in a joint statement, “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.”
Besides that, all legal challenges alleging voter fraud had been thrown out of multiple federal and state courts, including the US Supreme Court that chose not to hear any arguments. Trump loyalists had every opportunity to furnish evidence, but the fact is there were no evidence to show fraud.
It’s an ill sign that politics has devolved to such corrosiveness that the sanctity of voting is now political battleground. Politics has always been divisive; but the voting process since the Voting Rights Act 1965 has been generally a non-partisan safe zone.
Amidst all the grievance, false one at that, in which somehow Trump voters claim to have been disenfranchised in the last election, the real grievance comes in the demise of H.R.1. How so? Democratic senators represent 43 million more people than the 50 Republican senators who opposed the bill. Over 40 million is a huge number. Consider that the state of California has 39 million residents. On top of that 68% favored H.R.1’s passage. The built-in system in the Senate works against the true will of most Americans. This is real grievance, if anything.
The Senate should abolish the filibuster, and pass both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
It’s the democratic thing to do. Both the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential elections results justify that this is the will of the majority of Americans.
Lastly, President Joe Biden needs to work harder on defending voters’ rights. His lack of presence and lack of forceful support for H.R.1 at the Hill contributed to its failing. This must change going forward.