For me, the voting system is not perfect. But it is not difficult. Maybe it’s because of where I live.
A 2022 report by the Democracy Initiative Education Fund ranked Maryland second, behind Colorado, in electoral integrity, voter trust, and voter rights. DC was ranked 10th and Virginia was 11th.
But what about those who live in the states at the bottom of the list, like Florida, Texas, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Arkansas, just to name a few?
As former Democratic Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. makes clear in his recently published book on voting rights, “Our Unfinished March,” we need free and fair elections for everyone in this country, or else we’ll all be kissing our vote. Goodbye rights.
In the book, Holder recalled that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had been expanding voting opportunities since the day it was signed, and Congress reauthorized the law to ensure progress continued.
All of that stopped in 2008, he says, when a record turnout elected Barack Obama as the nation’s first black president. That’s when Republicans began to precisely pursue an agenda that focused on trying to rig democracy to their advantage, he says.
“Strategically, you can understand where they were coming from,” Holder writes. “The election of President Obama had scared them, as it should have. The most diverse electorate in history had shown up in unprecedented numbers to send an African-American senator to the White House; and they knew the country would become less white in the years to come. This presented an existential crisis for a Republican Party whose beliefs no longer increasingly aligned with those of most Americans: sure, they might sweep a middle ground here and there, but when the country turned out, when people voted in droves substantial, they would lose.”
To avoid obsolescence, he writes, the Republicans decided to change the rules of the game. Or just cheat, whatever it takes to win.
So how do we save this democracy before it’s too late?
Holder, now chairman of the Democratic National Redistricting Committee, which fights for fair constituencies and opposes election rigging, recommends nothing short of a national makeover: abolish filibuster, end the electoral college, impose mandate Supreme Court justices, end gerrymandering, make the Senate more representative, make the states of the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico full voting rights in Congress. And that’s for starters.
“But here’s the thing,” he says, “the main way to reform those institutions is by passing laws, and the way to pass laws is by winning elections, and the way pro-democracy is going to win elections is if those contests are a fair fight. So that’s where I’m going to start, with solutions to the problems plaguing our elections, which come down to one key principle: make it easy to vote.”
So, Holder suggests, put up ballot drop-off locations and voting sites across the country. Extend voting hours. Open new polling places. Send letters to seniors telling them how to vote by mail. Pay poll workers $17 per hour. All Americans would be automatically registered to vote as soon as they turned 18. Everyone gets a voter ID, free.
As you contemplate Holder’s suggestions, keep in mind that Republicans are working hard to do the exact opposite: They have proposed 393 bills in 39 states that would have made the vote difficult, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Like a law in Alabama that requires you to show a driver’s license to vote, while the same lawmakers who passed it tried to shut down Department of Motor Vehicles offices across the state. Or laws in Ohio and Florida that reduced the number of early voting days from 35 to 11 and from 14 to eight, respectively, and made sure to ban early voting on Sundays, when black churches were known to host “black soul” events. to the polls.” .
There are also Republican attempts to take control of the electoral apparatus. As a report by the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization Protect Democracy found, states across the country have introduced bills that would give partisan and rigged legislatures more authority over how presidential elections are conducted, allowing them to micromanage who is on the voter lists and how the ballots are voted. obtain certification.
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“The good news is,” Holder writes, “it remains to be seen whether these laws will achieve their intended ends, because studies have found that Republican attempts to disenfranchise people can sometimes inspire Democrats to engage in greater number. This is not to say that the bills won’t change some elections in favor of the Republicans. … However, this is not a reason to despair. It is a reason to organize.”
Holder acknowledges the tremendous efforts and great sacrifices that were made to obtain the voting rights that we have. The murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson in Marion, Ala., the murder of Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The list of martyrs, dating back to the founding of the country, is virtually endless.
But it will all be in vain if the nation collapses.
When it comes to voting at the DMV, we have it relatively easy. The least we can do is exercise that hard-earned right.