Voting Rights

The greater the participation in our election process, the stronger our democracy. That’s why we must ensure that every eligible citizen can register to vote, that every registered voter can vote, and that every vote is counted.

But these basic voting rights have come under attack for millions of Americans. A growing number of Republican-controlled state governments have decided to limit Americans’ ability to vote.

And wealthy business interests like the Koch brothers – who worry a strong democracy means less special treatment from lawmakers – are trying to influence high-court races in key states and are bankrolling Republican efforts in state legislatures to install unreasonable voting restrictions that disproportionally impact traditionally Democratic voters.

GOP-controlled states across the country have passed measures making it harder to register to vote and cast a ballot since the beginning of 2013.  17 states have installed voting restrictions ahead this year’s presidential election, including Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

These include strict photo ID and proof of citizenship laws that make it harder for eligible voters who change their name because they got married or can’t provide an original birth certificate. Many voters don’t have time to jump through bureaucratic hoops or can’t afford to pay fees for new government documents. And in states like Wisconsin, Ohio, and North Carolina, Republicans are rigging the game by restricting early voting periods, which disadvantages seniors and working people.

But perhaps the most serious blow to the democracy following the 2012 election came from the Supreme Court that struck down key protections in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was the largest rollback of voting rights in 50 years. As a result, states with a history of voting discrimination no longer need pre-approval from Congress for voting changes. States including Texas and Mississippi wasted no time passing discriminatory, voter suppression laws.  Chief Justice John Roberts was almost immediately proven wrong in his assertions that racial discrimination is a thing of the past and that the VRA was no longer necessary.

Fortunately, a proposal to fix to this misguided overreach by the Supreme Court has been introduced in Congress. The legislation called the Voting Rights Advancement Act would help to restore vital protections against voting discrimination that the Supreme Court stripped away. Those in Congress who believe in a vibrant democracy, cherish Americans’ fundamental right to vote, and support a system of elections that is accessible, open, and fair have no reason to oppose it.

This year marked the 51th anniversary of the historic march on Selma, AL that propelled the Voting Rights Act into reality—and this August marks the 51th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act into law. Republicans who claim to admire the sacrifices and suffering made by the Selma demonstrators that day need to do more than issue nice press releases.  They have to walk the walk. They must restore the Voting Rights Act’s protections and help ensure the positive change fought for lives on for another 50 years and beyond.

Questions to Ask

  1. Would you vote for the Voting Rights Advancement Act that restores protections in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 struck down by the Supreme Court? If not, why not? If so, why aren’t you a co-sponsor and what have you done to pressure your Republican leadership into bringing it to the floor for a vote?
  2. Do you agree with Supreme Court’s suggestion that racial discrimination is only found in history books and that we no longer need the discrimination protections in the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
  3. Republican state legislatures behind recent strict Voter ID laws claim they’re just trying to prevent voter fraud. Isn’t that a preposterous considering that since 2000, only 10 cases of in-person voter fraud have been proven nationally? Don’t you think Voter ID laws that disenfranchise millions of voters is a bit overkill for a non-existent problem?  Are do you agree with the growing number of legislators behind these efforts that have admitted Voter ID laws were passed with the callous goal of helping Republicans win elections by suppressing Democratic votes?  Can you really stand there and honesty say this is about stopping 10 cases of voter fraud in 16 years and not keeping Democratic voters away from the polls?