As vital as the COVID relief bill is to the health and wellbeing of the American people, so are the For the People Act and the 2021 Voting Rights Act to the survival of our democracy. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported:
REPUBLICANS’ WAR on democracy is gaining steam. Unable to persuade a majority of voters to vote for their presidential standard-bearer or Senate candidates in some key races, many have decided that instead of trying to compete in a free and fair vote they will make the contest less free and less fair. Republican state lawmakers are introducing voter-suppression bills all over the country.
On February 8th, the Brennan Center for Justice published its report on Voting Rights. It detailed how serious this war on democracy really is:
In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced well over four times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to roughly this time last year. Thirty-three states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 165 restrictive bills this year (as compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020).
Fortunately, the pro-democracy forces are not idly sitting back and watching these attacks on our right to vote: “To date, thirty-seven states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 541 bills to expand voting access (dwarfing the 188 expansive bills that were filed in twenty-nine states as of February 3, 2020). Notably 125 such bills were introduced in New York and New Jersey” alone.
Nevertheless, the odds are against the pro-democracy factions. Republicans control more state legislatures than Democrats do. Those legislatures are now working to gerrymander more than enough Congressional districts to take back the House of Representatives in 2022. If they prevail, the Biden administration will be obstructed by a hostile House from doing almost anything to help the American people. Just like the Republicans did to the Obama administration when they regained the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014.
This is why enacting HR 1 and the Voting Rights Act this year is critical. These new laws would take redistricting out of the hands of partisan legislatures. HB 1 requires states to adopt independent redistricting commissions for the purpose of drawing Congressional districts.
Voters’ rights would be protected under these new statutes as well. HB 1 prohibits states from restricting an individual’s ability to vote by mail. The bill would also mandate that states make online voter registration available and establish 15 consecutive days of early voting for at least 10 hours a day, among numerous other provisions making it easier and safer to vote.
We must do our part to ensure our rights as voters are protected. Write, call or visit your senators and Congresspeople. Urge them to do whatever it takes to pass these laws before it’s too late. That may mean all 50 Democrats voting to eliminate or alter the filibuster, which the Republicans will surely try to use to block these bills.
Still, the Democrats have an “ace in the hole.” A simple majority of the Senate could “carve out” election-reform legislation from the filibuster. That is the Democrats could vote to exempt any bill that expands voting rights from being subject to a filibuster, which Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has already proposed. That would preserve the filibuster for all other legislation while allowing Democrats to pass fundamental democratic reforms at a time when democracy has come under attack from the right.
If the Democrats want to save our country from oppressive, minority rule for the foreseeable future, this is the step they must take. The survival of our democracy hangs in the balance.
Bruce Berlin, J.D.
A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 https://www.vox.com/22260164/filibuster-senate-fix-reform-joe-manchin-kyrsten-sinema-cloture-mitch-mcconnell; https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/01/democrats-biggest-decision-nuking-filibuster/617854/