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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
Nineteen states, together with Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and Texas, have enacted 33 laws this year that make it more difficult for Americans to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Under the Texas proposal, drive through voting will now not be allowed, early vote casting may be limited, 24 hour polling sites might be scrapped, and absentee ballots may be tougher to cast. Harsher voter ID requirements will make faulty voter purges more likely. Election officers could face criminal prosecution if they encourage voters to request mail ballots or regulate ballot watchers’ conduct.
People in Georgia can now face criminal charges for handing out water or snacks to voters in line at the polls. People in Iowa and Kansas can be charged with a crime for filing ballots on behalf of voters who need assistance, such as voters with disabilities.
“It is not the visceral, in-your-face attack like the Capitol insurrection we witnessed on January 6th, however this wave of restrictive laws is no less an attack on democracy. The big lie, that the 2020 election was rigged, is being used to curb voting rights of some sections of society,” said Sean Morales-Doyle of Brennan Center’s Democracy Project at a press briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services and LCCR on November 5th. He added that the color vote is being diluted, the gap in turnout between the white voter and voter of color is expanding rapidly and despite a record turnout that gap is the highest it has been in a quarter century.
The House has passed two pieces of national legislation to limit the damage to voter rights, by setting national standards for voting that would ensure access to the ballot across state lines and across color lines.
The House passed the John L. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which will require preclearance of these laws. It prevents changes to voting rules, that discriminate on the basis of race or membership in language minority groups, from being implemented. It would restore voters’ ability to challenge discriminatory laws.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, complements The Freedom to Vote Act, currently before the Senate, which offers a comprehensive package of voting, redistricting, and campaign finance reforms.
“It would take some tactics that make it harder for folks to vote off the table, like you have to have same day registration, you have to restore voting rights to people on release from prison, you have to have automatic voter registration. These should be the bare minimum,” said Sean Morales-Doyle.
States could devise ingenious ways of circumventing the laws and to make it harder for some people to vote, but these two acts provide the tools that will help fight back, said Sean Morales-Doyle.
“What we are seeing are attempts to interfere with the right to vote, an attempt to marginalize and take from people a right that has already been given. We are not asking for the bestowal of a right . We are talking about the preservation of a right, that is the right of citizenship.We will do everything in our powers as an administration to lift up the voices of those who seek to preserve the right of the people to vote,” promised Vice President Kamala Harris, who is spearheading the Biden administration’s efforts to safeguard voting rights.
The real hold-up is in the Senate, where Republicans, for the fourth time since June this year, used the filibuster to block debate on the John L. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
President Biden in a speech in Philadelphia called the laws “the 21st century Jim Crow assault” on democracy and voters of color.
Ritu Marwah was a 2020 California reporting and engagement fellow at USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism.