Democracy is at stake. In the United States of America, more than a dozen states have enacted laws to make it harder for Americans to vote. As of today, over 400 voter suppression bills have been introduced in 49 states, including four in Maine.
Luckily in Maine, our state lawmakers have passed provisions to expand voting access and have rejected Republicans’ attempts to restrict voting rights in our state. This year, our legislature made it easier to register to vote and permanently adopted election measures that were implemented during the pandemic. These are vital steps making Maine a more democratic place.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in states across the country, including our neighbor New Hampshire. New Hampshire’s legislature enacted a law that imposes harsher voter identification requirements for in-person voting. According to the Brennan Center, 18 states have ratified measures that either expands their officials’ ability to purge voters from the polls or puts voters at direct risk of having their names improperly removed.
Driven by false allegations of nonexistent systemic voter fraud in 2020, some states, including Florida, Georgia, and Iowa, have gone even further in their attacks on voting rights and have passed more expansive and far-reaching measures. And despite the courageous efforts by Democrats in Texas who fled the state to block their legislature’s efforts to pass draconian voter suppression, that bill became law in early September.
Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, and Congress has the power to stem the tidal wave of restrictive voting laws.
This year, I have proudly voted to pass two much-needed pieces of legislation that will strengthen our democracy and restore voting rights.
I was an original cosponsor of the For the People Act, H.R. 1, which boldly expands campaign finance laws and improves access to the ballot box. Too many voices are being drowned out by powerful interests, and this revolutionary bill will limit the power of big money in politics, make our elections more transparent, and usher in a new era of government accessibility and accountability. In March, the House passed this bill, and it’s now up to the Senate to follow suit to put the power back in the hands of the American people.
More recently in August, I voted with my colleagues in the House to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, H.R. 4. This crucial legislation would restore key protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which were gutted by the Supreme Court in the Shelby County v. Holder decision and more recently in Brnovich v. DNC.
Discriminatory voting practices, including literacy tests and poll taxes, that were adopted in southern states after the end of Reconstruction were outlawed by the Voting Rights Act. But tragically, the Supreme Court gutted the law in 2013, opening the floodgates to organized voter suppression. Although Democrats passed H.R. 4 to restore the Voting Rights Act through the House, it now faces failure in the Senate, with the filibuster standing in the way of progress.
The For the People Act has also stalled because of the filibuster. In June, the Senate took up a procedural vote that would have allowed the chamber to begin debate on H.R. 1. Unfortunately, every single republican Senator voted against this motion, effectively blocking H.R. 1 from moving forward.
Voting rights should not be a partisan issue. This is our civil rights moment, and we must seize it to ensure every American has free and fair access to the ballot box. Both H.R. 1 and H.R. 4 must be passed.