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Why Fight for Voting Rights?

Posted on June 10, 2021

Safeguard Our Democracy Gather your groups and get ready!

by Janet Nelson

It’s always important to set aside time to remember what we are fighting for as progressive organizers. 

We have all been inundated this year: with isolation, with loss, and with fear, but we are emerging and now renewing our connections to those we love, and to what we value.

It is important that we take some moments this week to remember why we are doing this work together.

We all thought that the election of President Biden and Vice President Harris would allow us to step back. We cannot. As you organize your many friends, we hope that you will share what you have learned, and encourage them to share with others. Democracy, as they say, is not a spectator sport! The more we all understand, the better we are able to invite others to join us. This is our time to grow our work!

Our country has been assaulted these past years, and these assaults have increased, so that now we are faced with perhaps the most important work of our political lives. We know you are up for this effort and we are counting on you. 

The For the People Act, introduced in the Senate on March 21 by Senator Schumer as S1, marked it as the most important bill before this House.  In doing so, Senator Schumer stated that:

“If one political party believes that when you lose an election, the answer isn’t to win more votes, but rather to try to prevent the other side from voting, then we have a serious and existential threat to our democracy”.

While S1 is more than 900 pages long, it covers three main areas: Voting and Elections; Money in Politics, and Ethics and Accountability. In summary, it addresses:

  • Automatic voter registration, online registration, Vote By Mail, prohibiting voter purges, ending partisan gerrymandering
  • Reducing the influence of Big Money in politics
  • Slowing the revolving door between government officials and lobbyists, banning Congressional members from serving on corporate boards, and requiring presidential candidates to disclose tax returns

Since January, state legislators in 14 states have passed 22 new laws that restrict access to the vote. This week, Texas attempted to pass perhaps the most restrictive of these laws; the Democrats walked out and prevented it. This, as we remember the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, the ultimate assault. These laws are the continuation of a powerful national lobby, that goes back hundreds of years, to suppress a representative democracy.

The Republicans are not done. More restrictions on the vote will become law; 61 bills to that end are moving through 18 state legislatures. Throughout the country, 389 restrictive bills have been introduced in 48 States in this year.

 What can we do?   

A lot! Our voices are powerful when we work together.

S1 will counter these voting restrictions by imposing national guidelines that supercede state laws.

Swing Blue Alliance, in partnership with Common Cause, has launched a new initiative to target moderate Democratic senators from three key states: Maine, Nevada, and New Hampshire. While many of these Senators have voiced support of the bill, they are facing fierce opposition. We need them to know that their constituents support them. We know empirically that every phone call is logged and noted.

You have already sent postcards to Democrats in West Virginia to call Senator Manchin and to New York to Senate Majority Leader Schumer. Now, before the Senate begins to debate, and the filibuster is enacted, we need them to know that we are determined that this bill gets passed.

Schumer has announced that he will put S1 up for a vote during the last week of June. We expect that Republicans will filibuster that first vote and that this fight will continue until the end of July (and possibly into August). 

Thank you, all, for your tireless work…It is an honor to be part of this Alliance.

—  Janet Nelson is a retired clinical psychologist based in western Mass. She has worked on progressive campaigns since 1988, including serving as co-chair of the NJ Coalition to Save Darfur, 2005-2012.