A core function of democracy, voting has always been messy.
In our nation’s infancy, the founding fathers wrestled with enfranchising only landowners vs. allowing for more populist decision-making. Many had strong opinions both ways, but either way, the voters would share the characteristics of being white and male.
Over time, others gained the right to vote, but not before near revolution on their part, including by suffragettes who understood the inherent power of the vote and took to the streets to win it.
Today, however, voting equity is in jeopardy as GOP-dominated state legislatures across the U.S. are passing restrictive voting laws, tilting future elections in their favor by making it more difficult for some voters to cast their ballots.
The new voting laws stem from Donald Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, a narrative he hammered before the first vote was cast.
The nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice reported at the end of May that at least 14 states had enacted — since Jan. 1 — 22 new laws that inhibit voting, some of which restrict mail-in voting and the use of mail ballot drop boxes.
In Texas, the Republican-majority legislature wants to prohibit drive-up voting, used widely by Black and Latino voters during the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats fled the state to block passage and took refuge in Washington, where they hope their congressional counterparts can muster the votes to pass the For The People Act, which allows for same-day automatic voter registration and broadens mail-in voting.
Activists are grabbing onto both ends of the rope, joining politicians in a voting rights tug of war, hoping to pull the other side off their feet and into the mud.
Voting remains messy in America.
It’s no less contentious here in the Hoosier state, where Indiana Vote By Mail and Common Cause Indiana, among others, rallied last week outside the Indianapolis offices of Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun, encouraging their support of the For The People Act.
"We want people to be able to vote in the manner that meets the needs that they have as voters,” said Barb Tully, president of Indiana Vote By Mail. “We want everybody to have equal access to the ballot.”
Young sees the bill as unnecessary. Speaking from the Senate floor in June, he told colleagues, “In the history of our country, voting has never been easier than it is right now.”
Young’s assessment is correct — for some voters, but not all. Therein lies the problem.
Braun, who also doesn’t support the act, said at a recent news conference he believes other states should model Indiana’s election law. That’s problematic, though, as Hoosiers aren’t permitted same-day voter registration and, with the exception of the pandemic Primary of 2020, mail-in voting is limited.
Establishing voting laws is a state function; however, when state legislators pass laws that impede voting access, it is incumbent on federal lawmakers to take action.
Braun and Young should get behind legislation that maximizes voting opportunities, thereby strengthening our democracy.
— News and Tribune- Jeffersonville