By Helen Krim, Steering Committee Member, Northwest Bronx Indivisible
The avalanche of newly passed laws to crush voting rights in states across the nation should frighten us all. The State legislature in Georgia now has the right to remove duly elected election officials. Mail in voting, standard in many states, is being made more difficult. In some states there will be fewer drop boxes for ballots, particularly in districts where black and brown people reside. Early voting is being reduced forcing long lines to discourage people from waiting to vote. Voter rolls are being purged. Jim Crow is back, and our democracy is in peril.
The For the People Act, known as S1 in the US Senate, prevents the worst aspects of voter suppression at least in Federal Congressional, Senate and Presidential elections. The need for the Senate to pass S1 is urgent, with dire consequences for the 2022 election cycle if the law is not enacted.
Individual voter protections are key aspects of the bill. Automatic voter registration would be implemented. Mass purges of voter rolls would be prohibited. Requirements for notarized or witnessed signatures that disenfranchise some voters with disabilities would not be allowed. Intimidation, and spreading false information about the date, time and place of elections would carry federal penalties. For the People also restores important features of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and declares election day a federal holiday.
The 2016 and 2020 flood of corrupt and unethical practices in campaign finance, gerrymandering voting districts, administrative firings, and deputy appointments are also addressed in the For the People Act. Candidates for President and Vice President would be obligated to publish their taxes and put their businesses in a blind trust. The bill establishes independent redistricting commissions to prevent partisan gerrymandering. All campaign advertising would need to show who paid for it. Now is the time to make sure S1 – For the People passes in the Senate and becomes law. We must tell our representatives in Congress that passage is not optional, and failure is not acceptable. Our democracy depends on it.