Our history of supporting the concept of a democratic form of government where everyone has one vote and the majority rules is being tested, and we are in danger of failing that test.
The right to vote without undue restrictions is the gold standard for a democracy and makes us the shining light to other countries struggling to hold fair and equitable elections.
Since the founding of our country, we as a nation have consistently worked to enable all qualified citizens be able to have their vote count, but there has always been opposition to that.
It is good for both sides to speak on all issues. In order for that to be the case however, all need to have the ability to vote. Our voice is our vote, but it is only a valuable tool if our neighbor, our co-worker, our friends and our neighbors all have that same ability to use their voice that we do.
In response to record turnout for the 2020 presidential election, legislators have introduced four times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to roughly this time last year.
I am going to lump the legislations into four buckets with a few examples of each. This is legislation introduced in individual states, not federal.
Restrictions on assistance to voters:
Witness signatures – making it harder to satisfy existing witness requirements.
Limitation on absentee ballot return options.
More burdensome signature matching requirements.
Ballot receipt and postmark deadlines requiring earlier receipt.
Stricter voter ID requirements:
In 10 states not currently requiring voters to present ID, new legislation has been introduced to impose an ID requirement.
Two states that currently have a voter ID requirement are proposing legislation eliminating the use of certain forms of ID.
Two states have proposed legislation that would require a photocopy of your photo ID be included with your absentee ballot application as well as your completed mail ballot.
One state has introduced legislation that would require a voter include their state ID number and date of birth, and a photocopy of their ID with their absentee ballot application.
One state has a new bill that would require a photo ID in order to join the permanent absentee ballot list.
Slashing voter registration opportunities:
Four states have introduced bills requiring all voters produce proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.
Lawmakers in another state are asking that voter registration authority be stripped from county clerks and instead the secretary of state would be required to send voter registration information to the Dept. of Public Safety for citizenship verification.
Two states have introduced bills to eliminate automatic voter registration completely.
One state is looking at suspending automatic voter registration pending implementation of fraud prevention standards and procedure.
More aggressive voter purge practices:
There is pending legislation in one state that will require a comparison of voter roles against other databases to identify non-citizens, and would require that if a voter does not respond to a notice within 30 days with proof of citizenship they be removed from the roll of voters.
Despite the fact federal courts of said it violates the VRA, one state is suggesting election administrators remove voters from the rolls based on data provided by other states.
We have all heard about the Georgia legislation forbidding anyone from distributing food or water to voters waiting in line.
The list goes on and on.
Voting restrictions diminish the value of all of our votes as the purpose of voting in the first place it to give everyone an opportunity to express their position. The majority cannot rule if even a small group are not allowed to vote their conscience.
Now is not the time to say someone should do something about this. Now is the time to be that someone. You have a voice, and I ask you to use that voice to take a stand on this issue of restricting access to the right to vote to anyone.
As president of the League of Women Voters of Framingham, I would argue there is no more important role to play than to expand voter registration and guarantee that every voice in Framingham, and across our country is heard. Every vote matters. Every voice must be heard. Every position must be respected. If that is not the case, then we are failing to be the democracy that so many others in the world look to emulate.
We are being tested, and the only way for us to pass this test is to be involved.