The United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) dealt several blows to the Voting Rights Act last week.
The first prohibits individuals other than close family members or caregivers from collecting mail-in ballots.
The second requires elections officials to reject votes from people who report to incorrect precincts even if they are registered voters in their states.
One of the few dissenting voices, Justice Elena Kagan, stated:
“What is tragic here is that the Court has yet again rewritten—in order to weaken—a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses. What is tragic is that the court has damaged a statute designed to bring about ‘the end of discrimination in voting.’”
This transcends Arizona.
At a time when republican-majority legislatures all over the country are passing scores of draconian voter suppression laws in the run up to next year’s mid-term elections, the SCOTUS decision will inflict far-reaching damage on every future election coast to coast.
The court’s conservative majority also rejected a California law requiring charities to privately disclose their top donors to the state attorney general, a move that will undoubtedly expand the corruption “dark money” already plays in political campaigns.
People for the American Way and former president of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, recently proclaimed in an interview with Democracy Now!:
“They are hijacking our democracy from the top to aid and abet these Republican governors who have sought to hijack it from the bottom.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island, tweeted:
The Court That Dark Money Built just built dark money a home in our Constitution. A dark, dark day for democracy. https://t.co/X1wGZgjcqL
— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) July 1, 2021
Record turnout in last year’s election threw republicans into a tailspin.
They do not want democracy.
They want oligarchy.
But they know Americans outside the extremely wealthy do not.
So to maintain their wealthy donors’ hegemony, they work tirelessly to prevent voters from exercising their civic duty to choose whom they want to represent them.
And it isn’t like it’s been a secret.
Republicans have been wagging their voter suppression flag in our faces since Paul Weyrich, the Heritage Foundation founder and “founding father of the conservative movement,” announced as much in a speech to a religious right group in Dallas in 1980.
The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC) is tracking 125 bills 28 states are pushing to change ballot measure processes.
Republican lawmakers have introduced hundreds of bills to restrict voting, criminalize peaceful protest, revoke authority from state courts and local election boards, and discard votes that aren’t for them.
In March, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation to strip election control from local and county election boards in order to impose new voter ID requirements, limit mail-in ballot drop boxes, reject entire ballots erroneously misdelivered to incorrect precincts, allow conservative activists to challenge voters’ eligibility, even criminalize distributing pizza and water to voters waiting in line for their turn to cast their ballots.
Then Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis followed suit.
Arizona republican state senators are behind a recount of 2020 presidential election ballots because the entire party they serve has doubled down on the Donald Trump’s dangerous “rigged election” lie that led to the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.
They’ve even resorted to hunting for bamboo fibers as evidence thousands of ballots were mailed from China.
As the New York Times added:
“[Ballots are] receiving microscope and ultraviolet-light examinations, apparently to address unfounded claims that fraudulent ballots contained watermarks that were visible under UV light.
“Untrained citizens are trying to find traces of bamboo on last year’s ballots, seemingly trying to prove a conspiracy theory that the election was tainted by fake votes from Asia.”
All this is happening as legislation designed to prevent it languishes in the Senate.
It now sits as S.1 in the 50/50 Senate awaiting certain filibuster.
HR1/S.1 seeks, in part, to:
- Include providing voters access to automatic and same-day registration
- Fully restore the VRA
- Allow a two-week early- voting window that includes evenings and weekends
- Create a small-donor matching system that provides qualified presidential and congressional candidates $6 in public funds for every $1 raised from small donors
- Close federal campaign disclosure rule loopholes
- Curtail foreign funds in U.S. elections
- Address issues at the Federal Election Commission (FEC)
- Guarantee states use independent redistricting commissions when drawing congressional districts whose members represent diverse communities
- Establish fair redistricting standards and mandate better transparency in the redistricting process
- Require states replace paperless voting machines
- Offer new grants to enhance election security
- Develop more effective systems for auditing disputed elections
- Implement new security requirements for election system vendors that includes a mandate to report cybersecurity breaches.
A full breakdown of its sweeping provisions can be found here.
The Senate needs to pass S.1.
But, as Vox reports, there are several obstacles.
The first is none other than the filibuster, a racist anachronism invented to placate a once-insatiable slave-holding South.
The second issue is the number of centrist Democrats–WV Sen. Joe Manchin and Ariz. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema paramount among them–perfectly fine with the current Senate rules, gridlock and all.
“The third problem is that, even if Democrats lined up the votes to abolish the filibuster somehow, Manchin has said he’s inclined to oppose any party-line effort to overhaul voting in the country. If Manchin holds firm on this, the For the People Act is essentially dead.”
“The party has near-unanimity around the bill in public, with all but one House Democrat voting for it, and every Senate Democrat except Manchin co-sponsors it. But some members of the Congressional Black Caucus aren’t thrilled about it (fearing its redistricting reforms would dilute predominantly Black districts), and moderate senators have doubts as well.”
So what’s to be done?
All 50 Democrat senators–Joe Manchin included–must not only support the bill, but a Senate rules change to advance S.1 with a simple majority and circumvent a filibuster.
Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) has the power to put pressure on Manchin.
So, of course, does President Biden.
We should contact our senators at 202-224-3121 and let them know our concerns.
They work for us, after all.
Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, & Third Wednesday. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, Liberal Nation Rising, and Medium.