Op Ed

Federal Bill Combats Voter Suppression

For the People Act seeks to assure that all people have an equal right to vote.

Voters wait in line to vote early at the Zeidler Municipal Building. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Voters wait in line to vote early at the Zeidler Municipal Building. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

On January 6th, we all watched as right-wing extremists, spurred on by one of the most divisive presidents in the history of the United States, attempted to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election by attacking the U.S. Capitol, and attempting to thwart the certification of the Electoral College vote.

Fortunately, they failed then. But many of these groups and other dangerous threats to our democracy persist.

Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election, coupled with the misinformation and lies he continued to spread about voter fraud, have not only fueled the deadly insurrection but breathed new life into legislation aimed at even greater and more sever voter restrictions designed to prevent the kind of  unprecedented voter turnout that ousted Trump. These voter suppression efforts are the latest in a years-long attack on our core democratic rights and principles, and they show no sign up letting up.

Most state legislatures are just weeks into their latest legislative session, but in dozens of states, like here in Wisconsin, some legislators are taking direct aim at voting rights and promoting voter suppression. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, there are already 165 pending bills across 33 states aimed at restricting voting access. And it goes without saying that Black and brown voters would be most affected by these restrictions.

Here in Wisconsin, Legislative Republicans are already pushing several measures that would make it more difficult to vote absentee, to access local ballot drop boxes, create barriers to voting at nursing homes, and intimidate nursing home workers from assisting voters at their facilities, among other voter suppression tactics.

That’s why it’s especially urgent that we strengthen our democracy now by urging all members of our Congressional delegation to support the For the People Act, a comprehensive set of critical reforms. The Act has the support of Senator Tammy Baldwin and Reps. Ron Kind, Gwen Moore and Mark Pocan. In 2019 it passed in the House, but died in Mitch McConnell’s Senate. It just passed in the House, and has a real chance of passing in the Senate.

The For the People Act works to repair some of the many cracks in our democratic infrastructure created by year after year of attempts to limit voter access to the pools. These attacks on our democratic values have caused real damage that the For the People Act will begin to repair. It prohibits some of the most common voter suppression tools, like gerrymandering, and restrictive voter ID laws like we’ve been subjected to in Wisconsin.

We all know the harm these measures cause. Wisconsin used to be known for good government, fair representation, and a political culture rooted in basic respect for power sharing that comes with representative government. The culture has been shifting for two decades, but since Legislative Republicans pushed through a historically gerrymandered legislative map – clearly one of the worst in the nation – we’ve fallen into an abyss of unfairness. As the Brennan Center notes, “Wisconsin’s maps are so gerrymandered that Republicans can win close to a supermajority of house seats even with a minority of the vote.”

Not only that, Wisconsin has seen a parade of voter suppression tools put into action, such as discriminatory voter ID laws, voter roll purges, and dramatic cuts in early voting opportunities. Most recently, in the weeks prior to November’s presidential election, the same voter-suppression advocates in our state legislature managed to beat back efforts to extend mail and online registration, as well as the deadlines for absentee ballots, in the middle of  a deadly pandemic.

The damage to our democracy, our communities, and our progressive Wisconsin culture has been severe. Some leaders seem content to replace our optimistic and inclusive motto of “Forward” with “Backward.”

We cannot allow this to continue in Wisconsin or anywhere else.

In November, voters across America and Wisconsin turned out at historic levels to elect change-makers up and down the ballot. Now, we can build a better, stronger democracy where the people, not special interests, guide decision-making, and where every American is given an equal opportunity to have their voice heard.

The For the People Act builds toward this more inclusive future not only by strengthening voting rights, but also creating new disclosure rules meant to bring secretive big money donors to light, and by creating a matching system to encourage small-donor contributions. This is a major step toward ending the stranglehold of the wealthy and powerful on our politics and our government. It is a real chance to change a status quo that for years has worked well only for a privileged few.

But the window of opportunity to make this change happen at the national level is closing.

We urge Senators Baldwin and Johnson to seize this opportunity to do something good for Wisconsinites and all Americans in supporting the For the People Act. We can build a stronger, healthier democracy. Let’s get it done.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

One thought on “Op Ed: Federal Bill Combats Voter Suppression”

  1. Duane says:

    So much of our system of government is built on minority rule, one example being the current filibuster rule in the US Senate. Complicit Corporate Democrats need to act and kill the filibuster rule. Unless Joe Mansion and Curtsey Sinema (among other other phony Democratic Senators) act to kill the filibuster the whole nation will continue to suffer under the minority rule of the GOP (Greedy Oligarch Party).

    Another good example of minority rule, the US Senate itself. The population of the top 25 states equals 85 percent of the total US population. The bottom 25 states only account for the remaining 15 percent. The top 25 states are 29-21 in favor of Democratic Senators. The bottom 25 are 29-21 in favor of the Republicans. A total of 42 million more people voted for Democratic Senators rather than Republican Senators, yet the Senate is balanced 50-50.

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