Commentary: For the People Act necessary to protect integrity of elections

By Claire Snyder-Hall
Posted 6/22/21

Here in the United States, we strive to live in a free society, in which all of us choose who represents us, and we hold our representatives accountable come election time. Right now, however, our …

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Commentary: For the People Act necessary to protect integrity of elections

Posted

Here in the United States, we strive to live in a free society, in which all of us choose who represents us, and we hold our representatives accountable come election time. Right now, however, our freedom to vote is under attack by right-wing extremists and insurrectionists, who want to silence the voices of Black and Brown voters and allow powerful politicians to rig the rules of the game to benefit themselves and their cronies. It is time for bold action by “we, the people.” It is time for Congress to pass the For the People Act (House Resolution 1/Senate Bill 1).

This comprehensive, once-in-a-lifetime legislation would establish national standards to ensure that no matter where we live or what we look like, our freedom to vote will be protected and our choices on Election Day respected by those in power. It will also put an end to partisan gerrymandering, get big money out of politics and restore the accountability of government to the people.

The For the People Act has strong bipartisan support across the country, including overwhelming majorities amongst Democrats, Independents and Republicans, even in West Virginia. For example:

  • 68% of voters support early voting, and 62% want vote by mail.
  • 72% want nonpartisan commissions to draw congressional district lines.
  • 84% of voters want to limit the influence of money in politics.

In short, while partisan extremists in the U.S. Senate, like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., oppose the For the People Act, nearly 70% of the American people support it.

The For the People Act would end many of the state-by-state battles to restrict the freedom to vote. Right now, anti-voter extremists, self-aggrandizing politicians and special-interest secret donors are attacking democracy by making it harder to vote in places like Georgia, Florida, Texas and Arizona.

Delaware, however, is taking a different path. Just last month, our General Assembly passed automatic voter registration with a huge bipartisan majority, and our entire congressional delegation supports the For the People Act. The people of Delaware applaud Democratic Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester for backing it.

But we need more than just support when faced with the obstructionist tactics of Mitch McConnell, who is a self-described “guardian of gridlock” and an opponent of laws that reduce the undue influence of money in politics. Remember, he personally sued to overturn the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (the “McCain-Feingold” bill that sought to get rid of big money in politics). Since then, he has repeatedly asked the Supreme Court to give deep-pocketed donors more opportunity to influence our elections.

And now, McConnell has made it crystal clear that defeating the For the People Act is his top priority, instead of focusing on jobs, health care and infrastructure. Indeed, in a leaked recording of a conference call with secret special-interest corporate donors, Sen. McConnell’s policy adviser insisted that the minority leader was “not going to back down” from his efforts to block the For the People Act — even though the donor groups’ polling showed “there’s a large, very large, chunk of conservatives who are supportive of these types of efforts” to protect our democratic freedoms!

The minority leader is desperate to maintain his power, but he is minority leader for a reason.

Elections have consequences, as they say, and Democrats cannot sit by passively when faced with his well-known obstructionism. The Democratic majority needs to take bold action, even if that means getting rid of the filibuster.

Put simply, protecting the freedom of the American people — all of us — is simply much more important than preserving a Senate rule, that isn’t even in the Constitution.

We applaud our Delaware senators for supporting SB 1, but we also need them to do whatever it takes to get the For the People Act through the Senate and onto President Joe Biden’s desk for a signature.

We need Sens. Carper and Coons to lead the way, but they also need us to have their backs. The people of the First State must let it be known that we value living in a free society, choosing representatives for ourselves and holding them accountable. And that is why we join President Biden in calling for “all Americans, of every party and persuasion, to stand up for our democracy and protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections” by passing the For the People Act.

Claire Snyder-Hall is director of Common Cause Delaware.