Republican leadership blocks massive voting reform effort—Are they afraid of a fair vote?
Are Republicans too afraid to let people vote? That's what a voting rights advocate says after Republican opposition in the Senate killed the For the People Act, a bill that would have made election day a federal holiday, required early voting across the nation, and created public financing of small dollar campaign contributions.
Public disclosure of the president's tax returns and the names and addresses of top donors to super-PACs were also included in the bill. Listen for the story.
The For the People Act would have strengthened America’s voting system, increased so-called “Sunlight” laws that promote transparency in government and elections, according to Rey López-Calderón, Executive Director of California Common Cause, by doing several things on a national level. These include the following:
Voting Day becomes a national holiday
Felons regain voting rights
Early voting in every state
Public financing of small campaign donations
Automatic voter registration, with an option to opt-out
Releasing the names and addresses of individuals donating $10,000 or more to organizations involved in electioneering
Meanwhile, state lawmakers continue to enact voting restrictions across the country
The Brennon Center for Justice (BCJ) found that half of country has enacted voter restriction laws since 2010. BCJ says these laws have included various requirements, e.g., accepting specific types of photo ID which critics say favor older populations; making it harder for felons to vote; limiting early voting; and having lengthy wait times for registration.
Voting Restrictions Enacted in America Since 2010 Election
Election reform fails as faith in elections reaches international low
What’s next? It’s possible the For the People Act will be broken up into several smaller bills and passed individually at the national level. However, it’s unclear if Senate Republicans would support any of the reforms.
Some progress has been made. Despite most states enacting more restrictions, some historic reforms have succeeded at the state level. In February, a massive voting rights initiatives went into effect in Florida, where millions of non-violent felons gained the right to vote.
Other news has been less promising though, and blatant election fraud has been alleged. In North Carolina, a Congressional election was rescheduled after Republican hopeful Mark Harris was charged with obstruction of justice for ordering his election staff to fill out and mail in blank absentee ballots.
The extent to which strong election reform like the For the People Act would have shored up confidence in American democracy will remain unknown. Such a shoring up is badly needed. According to the Australian-based Electoral Integrity Project, Americans have the least trust in elections out of all Western countries.