A colleague of mine has a favorite saying for whenever he hears of anything that rubs up against the norms we take for granted in a free society. It can be anything from a wrongful arrest to the …
A colleague of mine has a favorite saying for whenever he hears of anything that rubs up against the norms we take for granted in a free society. It can be anything from a wrongful arrest to the cancelation of a popular television series. Whenever and wherever personal freedom suffers a setback, his response is: “What is this? The Soviet Union?”
I’ve been left wondering the same in light of the parade of new laws passed in statehouses across the country that have made voting in elections more difficult than in the past. These laws have not only rolled back voting expansions designed to deal with the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic but are more restrictive than voting rights enjoyed before the expansions of 2020.
According to the Brennan Policy Center, an independent, nonpartisan law and policy organization named for the late Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr., 14 states have enacted 22 new laws that restrict access to voting. The organization, which is tracking voting laws in statehouses across the country, found 61 more bills moving through the legislatures of 18 states. The organization says 389 bills looking to restrict voting have been introduced in 48 states this legislative session.
That’s a lot of new laws looking to make voting more difficult.
Some of the provisions in these laws go to ridiculous lengths, such as the Georgia law that makes it illegal to give food or water to a voter waiting in line. But most are taking aim squarely at basic voting rights, restricting access to absentee ballots, reducing the number and open hours of polling places and making it more difficult to register.
The fervor for voting legislation has been fueled by former president Donald Trump’s insistence that the 2020 general election was “rigged.” In making those claims, the former president and his supporters have asserted everything from ballot boxes stuffed with fake ballots to massive numbers of votes cast by dead Americans. The problem is, evidence of actual voter fraud has been hard to find. All of the restrictive legislation is little more than a bunch of solutions seeking a problem. Unless, of course, the problem isn’t voter fraud but that too many people are voting.
That our country, which claims to be the oldest continuously functioning democracy in the world, would tolerate any legislation to make voting more difficult should be reason for widespread outrage. Voting should be a cause for celebration, a practice widely spread and enjoyed by all. Registration to vote should be automatic for all eligible voters. Voting should be easy, with a national holiday to make it easy to vote in person. And mail-in balloting, which has proven to be safe and accurate, should be extended to who wants it.
In order for a government to be of the people and by the people, it needs to represent all the people. And to accomplish that, it needs everyone to exercise their right to vote.
This isn’t the Soviet Union, you know.