Tag Archives: #votingrights

Is Your Right To Vote Safe? No, Says Voting Rights Advocate Elizabeth Hira

On June 22, the voting rights bill For the People Act (S1) (also known as H.R.1),  met a solid Republican wall of opposition in the Senate even though the bill passed in the House with bipartisan support in March. Republicans voted against starting debate on it.

After the bill failed to advance in the Senate, President Biden condemned the suppression of a bill to end voter suppression, stating that the Act defended “the rights of voters…and stood against the ongoing assault of voter suppression that represents a Jim Crow era in the 21st Century.”

Earlier in the month, voting rights advocates at a June 11 briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services were optimistic about the prospects of legislation aimed at blocking voter suppression in many states.

Elizabeth Hira, Spitzer Fellow and Policy Counsel, Brennan Center’s Democracy Program described the election reform bill as “an opportunity to fundamentally transform American democracy by changing who gets a seat at the table.”

What’s at stake is reduced voting options at the local level that disenfranchise vulnerable populations.

In Texas for example, the Senate approved an election law – SB7 – that could make voting more difficult for people of color and people for whom English is a second language. Mimi Marziani, President of the Texas Civil Rights Project explained that SB7 prohibits local election officials distributing vote by mail applications. This would impact the right to vote for people with disabilities, college students or people who are incarcerated. Instead, the bill could empower partisan poll workers who are known for intimidating people of color and make it easier for politicians alleging fraud to have elections overturned with very limited proof.

“Invidious discrimination, often race-based is very much alive in American law,” added Hira, citing the example of voter ID laws in North Dakota which require proof of residential addresses. It’s a requirement that’s impossible for Native American communities to provide as the state does not assign them home addresses.

In California, CalMatters reports that schools do nothing or next to nothing to help eligible 18 year old students register to vote, because the state legislature has voted year after year to suspend funding for local initiatives. According to a USC study by the Center for Inclusive Democracy in February 2021, only 11% of 16- and 17-year-olds in California are preregistered to vote.

Both federal bills – For the People Act (S1), and the John L. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, under consideration in the US Senate, sought to protect the rights of voters by pushing back the ongoing assault of voter suppression.

The S1 “fundamentally asks the question, what would it look like to have an inclusive American democracy,” said Hira.

The For the People Act aims to recognize and rectify historical inequities in voting rights by expanding access to the ballot box, changing campaign finance laws, and making infrastructural changes.

S1 includes automatic voter registration and same day voter registration which will benefit communities of color and young people from one of the most demographically diverse generations in America today. It also includes online voter registration for ten states which don’t have operational systems, and supplies two weeks of early voting with hours before and after, to ensure that people get to cast their ballots  – especially women and lower wage workers who do not have the flexibility to stand in line for hours at the polls on election day.

In order to reduce the influence of big money in politics, the bill would establish a baseline minimal standard for campaign finance reform. It restores the vote for about 4 million Americans who are out of jail or prison and living in their community. Other provisions include an increase in penalties for intimidation at the polls, as well as an endorsement for DC statehood and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

Ensuring that people can elect leaders to represent them through fair redistricting is a fundamental tenet of S1. It bans partisan gerrymandering that lets politicians draw districts to choose their voters, and instead, opens the process to allow the public to choose their leaders. It also prohibits discriminatory voter purges and provides grants for election security and election administration so that states can get paper ballots and “voters can know their votes are cast and counted,” said Hira.

Fortifying our democracy by instituting anti-corruption measures and strengthening ethics rules for public servants is integral to the For The People Act, which provides a judicial code of ethics for the Supreme Court which is the only court in America that does not abide by one, and will require the President and Vice President to abide by conflict of interest laws and submit the last ten years of their taxes.

In conjunction with the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the S1 advances the work of the Civil Rights movement to achieve racial justice, but it also involves  intersectional equities – ensuring voting rights for women who change their names after marriage or divorce, and for transgender people without documents that match their gender identity.

After the bill failed to advance in the Senate, President Biden issued a statement that he would be ramping up efforts to overcome suppression of a bill to end voter suppression, declaring, “This fight is far from over—far from over.”


Meera Kymal is the Contributing Editor at India Currents.


Photo by visuals on Unsplash

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Asian American Voices Take on Voting Rights in US Elections

Over the years, America has seen a nationally growing community of minority populations. The 2016 elections caused a huge wave of anger and frustration within these communities and led to protests and action against injustices caused by lack of voter turnout and disparity in elections. People protested and voiced out their anger and fear of not having a space to grow on an equal footing as those that were privileged. These events led up to the 2020 election, a time where Kamala Harris, the first Asian-Black woman elected Vice President in the history of this nation. 

South Asian Americans are one of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S with a 45% growth in the last decade. These numbers show the growing influence of Asian Americans in the electoral processes of the States. Meera Kymal reported for India Currents that though Indian Americans represent just over 1% of the US population, they have donated more than $3 million towards the 2020 presidential campaigns. Minority voices have demanded equality and representation in their communities. At the Ethnic Media Services briefing on April 30th, John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), stated that the 2020 election saw an increase of 40% in voter turnout when compared to the 2016 elections. 

The For the People Act and the John L.Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will only give more equality and accessibility to minority communities to break language barriers and make their vote count. Both these bills seek to make the electoral process secure and prevent foreign interventions or money from influencing the electoral process and vote. They also provide better access to voting by mail and overall enhance the voting process and security. 

“Language barriers are one of the biggest impediments to the Asian American vote, with 1/3rd of Asian Americans being what is called limited English proficiency” John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC).  

Mr. Yang further states that previous elections have witnessed a lack of translators or sign indicators for those that are not proficient in English, limiting their access to ballots. While this was taken care of in the 1965 voting rights act, a lot more can be done for those that aren’t proficient in English. “In every election poll, monitors have observed missing Asian language signage and interpreters, which limits our access to the ballot. Ensuring effective language assistance is paramount to closing that consistent barrier in national and local elections,” he stated. 

The For The People Act and John L.Lewis  Voting Rights Advancement Act will improve and expense the voting opportunities for Asian communities making it more accessible to them. The previous election also saw an increase in turnout due to voting by mail. Such steps can be enhanced and practiced more efficiently if the two bills were to pass in Congress. 

What better month to discuss this topic than AAPI heritage month! It is important to remember that the influence of Asian American communities strongly impacted the 2020 elections, and the passing of these two bills in Congress will only enhance the opportunity for better representation and understanding of the Asian American community in the States. 


Swati Ramaswamy is a recent graduate from UC Davis and is an aspiring creative writer who loathes speaking in the third person.