Barriers to voting rise in battleground states
The perennial battlegrounds of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas are among at least 19 states that enacted laws last year making it harder for ordinary citizens to vote and easier for partisans to seize power. Similar legislation is pending in the battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, Republicans continue to block federal action with the filibuster, the infamous rule that brought the Senate to a standstill for 60 days to prevent passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The filibuster requires a 60-vote supermajority to open debate on a bill, which a simple majority can then pass.
“How can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same?” asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
The House has passed two bills to ensure free and fair elections. The Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747) would create national standards for access to the ballot box, make Election Day a holiday, and ensure that every state offers same-day voter registration at all polling locations by 2024 (and at a limited number by 2022). The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4) would reverse dangerous, undemocratic trends flowing from recent Supreme Court rulings.
In Shelby v. Holder, decided in 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated the crucial “preclearance” provision of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act—a ruling the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in her dissent is “like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” The court further weakened the law last summer in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee.
What is happening now is what Justice Ginsburg feared. In the absence of federal oversight, states with a history of restricting voting rights are again limiting access to the ballot box for political gain—threatening the free and fair elections that are the cornerstone of our democracy. TAKE ACTION