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Voting Restrictions: 'What are They Afraid of?"

Republican politicians across the nation, heeding the words of their defeated leader, Donald Trump, are scurrying like rats to erect barriers that would prevent people who are unlikely to support them from voting.

"What are they afraid of?" asked a new county Democratic Party chairwoman in South Carolina, Alester Linton-Pryor. "They're trying to restrict the vote because they're afraid they will lose."

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The Brennan Center for Justice reported March 18 that more than 360 bills to restrict voting access have been proposed in 47 states.

"These measures target and will disproportionately harm voters of color, young voters, and voters with disabilities," said the Center in an article written by Wendy R. Weiser, Daniel I. Weiner and Dominique Erney. "In Georgia, for instance, a recent Brennan Center analysis found that proposed bills to cut Sunday early voting and mail-voting access would burden Black voters most."

On March 25, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed the most far-reaching effort yet into law — a sweeping voting measure that undercuts the power of the secretary of state and local election boards. The new law removes the secretary of state from serving as chair of the State Board of Elections, giving the legislature the authority to appoint a majority of the members, and authorizes the state board to suspend local election officials.

That was a direct response to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's refusal to accede to Trump's personal request, via a phone call, that Raffensperger simply find some 11,000 votes to put him over the top so he could grab the state's 16 electoral votes.

Meanwhile, critics say that suspending county election boards could give state officials power over a plethora of decisions, including the acceptance and rejection of mail ballots, early-voting hours, poll-worker hiring and the number of polling locations.

The law also restricts the distribution of food and water to people standing in line, makes it harder to cast absentee ballots, reduces the number of drop boxes for mail ballots, and bars mobile voting places -- all in response to Trump's defeat in the state and the election of Democratic Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

President Joe Biden March 31 called the new Georgia voting rules "a blatant attack on the right to vote, the Constitution and good conscience." He said they were "un-American" and "Jim Crow on steroids."

In an interview with ESPN, Biden said he would “strongly support” players who believe Major League Baseball should move the July 13 All-Star Game from Truist Stadium, the home of the Atlanta Braves. Today, that happened. MLB announced the game would NOT be played in Atlanta, a heavy cost to that city and what must be an embarrassing decision for many residents there.

Corporate Opposition

Opposition from the business community to state voting restrictions has been growing, including Georgia-based Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines, which have joined a growing chorus of opposition to restrictive voting laws.

Here's a small sampling via Axios:

Bank of America: "Our history in fact is punctuated by the moments when we expanded that right to those to whom it had been denied too long. We must continue to right the wrongs of our past, and stand united in our advocacy for equal voting rights for all," Chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan wrote in a message to employees.

Apple: "The right to vote is fundamental in a democracy. American history is the story of expanding the right to vote to all citizens, and Black people, in particular, have had to march, struggle and even give their lives for more than a century to defend that right," CEO Tim Cook told Axios.

  • "Apple believes that, thanks in part to the power of technology, it ought to be easier than ever for every eligible citizen to exercise their right to vote."

Patagonia: "Our democracy is under attack by a new wave of Jim Crow bills that seek to restrict the right to vote. It is urgent that businesses across the country take a stand — and use their brands as a force for good in support of our democracy."

  • "We urge companies to join us in supporting the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For The People Act."

Meanwhile, in Texas the Senate has advanced a new bill that limits how and when voters can cast ballots and receive mail-in voting applications.

Early morning April 1, the Texas Senate approved Senate Bill 7, limiting extended early voting hours, prohibiting drive-thru voting and making it illegal for local election officials to proactively send applications to vote by mail to voters, even if they qualify.

The legislation is at the forefront of Texas Republicans’ crusade to further restrict voting in the state after last year’s election, reported the Texas Tribune.

Although Republicans remain in full control of state government, Texas saw the highest turnout in decades in 2020, with Democrats continuing to drive up their vote counts in the state’s urban centers and diversifying suburban communities, the newspaper reported. The bill, considered a priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), now moves to the House for consideration.

Federal Reform Needed

All of this emphasizes the need for federal voter reform, said the Brennan Center in its article.

"This historic legislation responds to twin crises facing our country: the ongoing attack on democracy — reflected in the assault on the Capitol on January 6 and the subsequent flood of vote suppression bills across the country — and the urgent demand for racial justice," the authors wrote. "It is based on the key insight that the best way to defend democracy is to strengthen democracy. If enacted, it would be the most significant voting rights and democracy reform in more than half a century."

Passed by the House of Representatives, the For the People Act incorporates such key measures as automatic voter registration and other steps to modernize elections; a national guarantee of free and fair elections without voter suppression, coupled with a commitment to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act; small donor public financing to empower ordinary Americans instead of big donors (at no cost to taxpayers) and other critical campaign finance reforms; an end to partisan gerrymandering; and overhaul of federal ethics rules.

"Critically, the Act would thwart virtually every vote suppression bill currently pending in the states," the Brennan Center authors wrote.

However, the fate of that important bill now depends on passage by a 50-50 Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris having the tie-breaking vote. Republicans are certain to filibuster, blocking its passage. It would take 10 GOP senators to assure passage, assuming all Democrats vote in favor.

There has been considerable talk of Democrats imposing the "nuclear option" by ending the filibuster rule, clearing the way for legislation such as this to be passed by majority vote, instead of the 60 that otherwise would be needed. Biden has been hesitant to throw his full support behind such a move and some conservative Democrats have voiced reservations.

But, if ever there was a reason to take such action it is the attack on the right to vote. If Republicans are permitted to limit the ability of all Americans to exercise that right, then our entire democracy is in jeopardy.

As the Brennan Center wrote, "The right to vote is at the heart of effective self-government. In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison laid down a standard for our democracy: “Who are to be the electors of the federal representatives? Not the rich, more than the poor; not the learned, more than the ignorant; not the haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscurity and unpropitious fortune. The electors are to be the great body of the people of the United States.”

"For over two centuries, we have worked to live up to that ideal, but have consistently fallen short. Many have struggled, and continue to struggle, for the franchise. The For the People Act would expand and protect this most fundamental right and bring voting into the 21st century."

The For the People Act must be passed by the Senate, the filibuster be damned.

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