I’ve often watched, horrified, as voters are routinely forced to stand in outrageous lines at their polling places. States across the country have cut back on early voting hours, absentee ballots and mail in ballots which will only add to the problem. These issues, coupled with new Voter ID laws present barriers to voting that put unacceptable restrictions on people's’ access to their right to vote. Last year voters in 23 states faced greater obstacles at their polling places than they did in the midterms eight years ago.
How can we hold ourselves up as a model of democracy when instead of expanding and guaranteeing access to the ballot to all qualified voters, we seek to put barriers in place? Instead of embracing every possible opportunity to improve and facilitate one of the cornerstones of our democracy, we’re allowing it to crumble.
Many of these restricts are introduced on the premise that they prevent voter fraud. A recent study found that between 2000 and 2016 there were a total of 31 legitimate cases of voter fraud out of over one billion ballots cast. The specter of “voter fraud” is used to restrict voting rights of American citizens.
Many of the restrictions put in place are only possible because of the 2013 case, Shelby County v. Holder which effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act. It is time to reinvigorate a new voting rights act. One that protects the rights of voters everywhere. That’s why I’ve Co-Sponsored H.R. 1 to protect Americans’ access to the ballot, reduce the influence money in politics and strengthen ethics rules for our public servants.
Of the many tasks this body has, protecting the right to vote, the foundation that our democracy is built upon, the right for which countless Americans have fought over the course of our history, is at the top of the list. Protecting, expanding, and strengthening that right should be one of our greatest priorities.