By Lee Harris and Jane Thomas
In a year that began with the promise of a new direction for our country, few things have been more disheartening than the eruption of voter suppression laws in Republican-led states. These laws gut the voting rights that Black and brown voters fought and died to secure.
We battled them state by state, in a grim version of Whac-a-Mole. Now we need Washington to step in and do its part. Finally, we have a new bill in Congress: the Freedom to Vote Act.
This bill must pass. And it must pass now, because states are already preparing for the 2022 elections.
The Freedom to Vote Act was introduced in the Senate as the successor to the For the People Act, which was shot down twice by Republican filibusters. The new act, which has the support of all 50 Democrats in the Senate, is sometimes described as a “compromise bill,” but let’s be clear: The bill is no compromise when it comes to essential protections for voting rights.
This is strong legislation that can undo the worst of the voter suppression measures GOP-led states have passed. It expands access to voting by mail, creates automatic voter registration, makes Election Day a federal holiday, and expands early voting.
These are all measures that make voting more accessible to working people with inflexible job schedules, child care responsibilities, or disabilities.
Significantly, the bill aims to counteract insidious new state laws that empower state officials to override local election authorities — and possibly even election results. Imagine if sympathetic state officials had this power when Donald Trump demanded that Georgia “find” him 11,780 votes.
The bill also includes important disclosure provisions to help keep billionaires from secretly buying elections, as well as measures that prohibit the discriminatory and partisan gerrymandering that undermines the principle of one person, one vote.
These measures should appeal to all Americans, because everyone should want a level playing field in our elections. But unfortunately, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell has already made it clear that no member of his caucus will vote for this bill.
McConnell also claimed that among the voting restrictions being passed in states, “Not one is designed to suppress the vote based on race.”
This is laughable, but also infuriating. As pastors of Black churches, we had no doubts about their intent when Texas and Georgia politicians attacked our Souls to the Polls tradition by trying to cut Sunday voting hours.
This all leads to an inescapable conclusion: Voting rights advocates in Congress must go it alone to protect those rights if necessary, and they must eliminate any procedural obstacles that stand in the way.
In the Senate, that means the filibuster.
Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), a chief architect of the Freedom to Vote Act, and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have resisted reforming or removing the filibuster. President Joe Biden is said to be coming around on filibuster reform, but has not yet turned his words into action.
The time for clinging to the filibuster as a tradition is over. You cannot simultaneously be for voting rights and for allowing procedural rules to stand in the way of legislation that protects those rights.
The real choice is simple: The Senate and the House must pass the Freedom to Vote Act, and the president must sign it.
It’s what the American people want: Public support for voting rights legislation is strong and crosses party lines, politicians’ rhetoric aside. The effort to roll back voting rights is unconscionable, and the federal government has a duty to act. The Freedom to Vote Act is the right law at the right time.
And time is running out.
Lee Harris is pastor at Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida and an elder in the National Primitive Baptist Convention. Jane Thomas is a Presiding Elder in the Sixth Episcopal District of Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Fort Valley-Savannah District, Georgia. They are members of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers in Action network.
Time to vote DEMS. The Repubs are trying to take the right to vote from people of color. Let vote crazy out. The Repubs. They are the crazy. The DEMS are the VOMMON SENCE PEOPLE. We need common sense people in all cspitols and the White House.
As far as I am concerned , as long as you prove (an ID) who you are when you vote is the only thing that matters. You need an ID for everything else you do so why not to vote? Anyone who opposes this is pro cheating.
Lot’s of generalizations; no facts.
Timothy Patrick Welch says
Contains some good stuff, but…
The big problem is not Billionaires or Millionaires or Common Folk influencing the electorate, the big problem is when corporations of any type influence the election by direct support for a candidate, or by using their influence over the electorate, or by their collusion with a certain political party. Corporations are destroying the democratic process.
Further, understand some “Democrat states” have more restrictive voting laws than then some “Republican states”. Please respect the rights of individual states to administer elections.
Citizens United was a Supreme Court decision, not a states decision. You literally just referenced and vicariously complained about the republican championed 2010 landmark decision.
Sooooo, only when the idealology only fits YOUR agenda or beliefs should the federal government intervene?
Greg Smith says
My guess is the authors of this piece would not feel as they do (bipartisan) regarding removing the filibuster if it were the republicans in control of congress trying to push their agenda through. Amazes me rules don’t apply when the left wants to push their radical agenda. The rules only apply to those who do not support their agenda.
Why does it “amaze” you? You are exactly right in that the fillibuster is indeed built for the minority party. That is the intent of it. Historically it’s been used about the same number of times, with actual success being garnered about 40% more of the time by republicans. So what exactly is so “amazing” that makes you so distraught?
Also had to toss in the “radical” agenda. It’s this kind of partisanship that the younger generations simply aren’t going to tollerate anymore. We want better equitable pay, better health coverage, childcare, cleaner air, safer roads and bridges, police accountability, actual freedom of religion, freedom to choose who to marry, freedom from the racist deplorables vitriol and hate without getting beat down with our American flag. What’s so “radical” about any of that? I suspect YOU want all of the same things, but you can’t separate yourself from the hate and see the forest for the trees.
Crazy, we’re all supposed to believe there was no election fraud & abuse in any election, yet voter suppression is the only clear & present danger to Democracy ? Since when did those that are the cheaters & liars among us all, find or even create cheats/loopholes in a system, when did those folks ever not utilize every cheat/loophole in the voting & election system. The Democrats really have the least transparent process, Obama surprising everyone and beating out HRC ? HRC getting past Bernie Sanders ? Biden-Harris never went thru the primary process for their own party with a pandemic 2020 year. Talk about Voter Suppression, FL never held a Democrat party nomination to determine that Biden was the choice of the voters. The only ballot I ever received or even voted for 2020 was the Nov 3rd election, we were all in quarantine. The DNC chose Biden-Harris for the general election, even out of that entire field of limited choice.
This bill also makes it easier for fraud in our elections. Since when does showing a gov’t form of identification to vote is racist? Democrats are hell bent on open to all to vote. They insist ID requirements are racist. Then all doctor offices, the library, the motor vehicles office, and social security are just a few of the racist orgs in America. America is so corrupt it’s sickening.
Mike Cocchiola says
Of course, not one Republican will vote for the Freedom to Vote Act. They know that if people are free to vote, they won’t win. And if you think there are “good” Republicans in Congress… forget about it. There are none. Not one.
Americans want to see states adopt voter ID Provision. Other than that, elections are up to the states, and they need to stay that way.
Timothy Patrick Welch says
Contains some good stuff, but…
The real problem is Corporations of any type providing direct support to candidates, or using their influence over the electorate. We the people should be represented not the interests of a corporate entity.
The right of individual States to administer the voting should prevail over Federal control.
This already exists in the form of voter registration. The myriad of post election audits continuously and consistently prove that this isn’t a problem in America.
But I suspect you don’t want to hear the truth. Your beliefs don’t make it fact.
This is for those above who seem to think that some sort of “voter ID” solves everything. Again, that already exists in the form of the actual voter registration process. You know, that time when you went to the DMV? To get that picture and signature ID? To sign that voter registration with your real-life signature? Remember that? What is primarily sought in the bill is voting accessibility, availability and convenience. I think anyone that has a problem with that is, well, a modern fascist, racist nazi for lack of a better definition. Let the people drink water you sideways unloving crackers.