Lisa Winkler: The Freedom to Vote Act is crucial for our democracy – vtdigger.org
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Oct 6 2021, 10:30 AMOctober 5, 2021
This commentary is by Lisa Winkler of Bridport, an educator and fundraiser, and an avid voter.
An open letter to U.S. Sens. Leahy and Sanders: I am urging you to do everything in your power to pass the Freedom to Vote Act. Simply put, what good is an infrastructure infusion if we no longer have a functioning democracy? (Infra: Latin meaning below; further on; structure meaning the arrangement of and relations between the parts or elements of something complex.)
The Freedom to Vote Act creates a national standard for voting rules and tries to stop voter suppression, modernizes voter registration, and replaces old, paperless voting machines with new ones that have a voter-verified paper trail.
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It slows the flood of money into our elections and ends partisan gerrymandering. It establishes strict rules for post-election audits.
As it stands now, a simple majority in the Senate cannot pass it, even though the 50 Democratic senators represent about 40.5 million more Americans than the 50 Republican senators. (The U.S. has about 328 million people.)
If you really want to pass a solid infrastructure bill, start with our voting infrastructure system. One in four eligible Americans are not registered to vote. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the Freedom to Vote Act would “address the highly successful push across the country to restrict access to voting, primarily targeting voters of color. We are starting a redistricting process that is going to once again be distorted by extreme partisan gerrymandering, much of which also targets communities of color. Our campaign finance system is now increasingly dominated by a small group of megadonors who are calling the shots and overshadowing ordinary citizens. And we have a new push to empower partisan legislators to take over the machinery of elections or the vote-counting process, coupled with attacks on election workers, threatening the integrity of our elections.”
For example, the voter suppression bill that just passed in Texas has a provision that makes it a felony for local election officials to proactively distribute applications for mail-in ballots, even if they are providing them to voters who automatically qualify to vote by mail or groups helping get out the vote. In addition, it restricts the number of hours polls are open and how and where voters may cast their ballots.
These restrictions are just the tip of the voter-suppression wave happening in states across the country. As of June 21, 2021, 17 states had enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to the vote. With some state legislatures still in session, more laws will certainly follow
While Congress is fiddling with what billion to put where in the multitrillion-dollar infrastructure house of cards, our government’s house is burning. Our right to vote is on the table as our most effective tool for stopping the Republican Party’s current plunge into authoritarianism. Without it, no health care reform act, no broadband, no bridge too far will make any difference to the millions of people working hard to uphold their families and our democracy every day.
We need you to do whatever it takes (including blocking the filibuster, as the Senate has done for judicial appointments) to enact the Freedom to Vote Act.
This is a popular measure: A Data for Progress poll found that 70% of likely voters support the act. That number includes 85% of self-identified Democrats, 67% of independents, and 54% of Republicans. If allowed to suppress votes of millions of Americans (truly historic), the Republicans, as currently configured, will never again allow a free and fair election.
I don’t know about you, but I would hate to be a standing member of a party that controlled both the House and Senate and the presidency and still allowed our fundamental right to vote to go down in history as the pivot point that brought down this experiment we call democracy.
These current Republicans are serious about installing an autocracy. We need to be just as — if not more — serious about upholding a democracy.
Please do what we elected you to do. Please do what it takes.
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