Op Ed

Voting Reforms Offer a Moral Choice

Proposals for fair maps and expanded voting opportunities enhance democracy.

By - Nov 27th, 2023 04:54 pm
Vote here sign outside a Milwaukee polling place. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Vote here sign outside a Milwaukee polling place. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

I am a Hispanic evangelical mother, and as such I am called by my faith’s commandments to be disciplined in compassion and devoted in love for my community and my nation. In the Gospel of Matthew, we are told about leaders who lay heavy burdens on the people that restrict their thriving. Today, many leaders, motivated by greed, do the same – restricting access to the ballot box so they can withhold mercy and hoard power, destabilizing our democratic system. While threats to our democratic values are not new, evangelicals have a duty to defend righteousness. Not out of loyalty to a political party but because as disciples of Christ, we are to oppose evil and to love mercy. Not only am I a woman of faith, I am also an Elections Commissioner here in Wisconsin. Therefore, I see our democracy in action through a unique lens and I am extra committed to ensuring our democracy and electoral process are free from corruption.

Throughout our country’s history, we have faced challenges that test our will, yet we always overcome them. As we confront new threats, we must persevere and defend our values. Fortunately, legislation safeguarding our democracy is on the horizon in Congress, laying a path forward for Wisconsin and the rest of the country. The Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are not just pieces of election reform; they are, in my view, a manifestation of a truly evangelical vision of the principled fairness key to the functioning of a just society. They will fortify our principles, protect our elections, and ensure the sanctity of our votes.

Recently, battles over redistricting have reached a fever pitch. Too many politicians place their power before the people they serve, and their constituents are the only ones who pay. Now more than ever, we need policies that clean up Washington and secure voters’ fundamental rights.

The Freedom to Vote Act outlines specific criteria states must subscribe to in their redistricting plans. Likewise, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act targets discriminatory redistricting practices. These policies will guide Wisconsin toward fair elections that value every ballot, whether it’s cast in Milwaukee or Marinette.

While these protections are vital to the health of our democracy, they are irrelevant if we don’t expand access to the voting booth. The ability to cast a ballot is the lifeblood of our democracy – the gate between people and the change we desire. It’s also an issue that affects our state’s underserved communities, and these barriers are only becoming more common. Thankfully, the Freedom to Vote Act furthers access to the voting booth, establishing equal opportunity for all Wisconsinites. And, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act includes provisions that increase language accessibility of voting materials – something that is particularly important to the Hispanic community. These provisions are not a matter of convenience; they forge a more representative system and ensure we leave no one behind.

Nearly sixty years ago, John Lewis fought for the rights of millions of Americans. Mr. Lewis’ story shows that it’s not enough to cherish the principles that define us; we must actively uphold and protect them. Last election cycle, clergy members, community leaders, and individuals across Wisconsin all stood up to protect the essential freedoms of our democracy. Their fight transcends identity politics and instead is a unified call for a fair and just electoral system. I pray that soon, their calls echo in the halls of Congress.

I’m grateful we have strong leaders like Tammy Baldwin. Senator Baldwin is a vocal proponent of measures that extend rights to every Wisconsinite, and I urge her to continue her good work to ensure the passage of these acts. Confronting threats to our democracy will not be easy. However, the people of our state are resilient, and I trust that we will persevere. While our path toward a fair system may be full of setbacks, I know it will always be a fight worth waging. I hope our state’s lawmakers realize this and work to preserve our country’s history of fair and free elections.

Patricia Ruiz-Cantu is a member of the Milwaukee Election Commission.

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Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

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