With coronavirus stimulus in the accomplishments column, Joe Biden and Democrats now have to prioritize their next agenda items. There are a lot of issues on the docket, including gun control measures, infrastructure planning, and raising taxes on the rich. However, the issue that should stand above the rest on the agenda is voting rights. This year, Republicans in states across the country have put forward over 200 bills that, if passed, would restrict citizens’ access to the voting booth. Democrats should move to ban these laws while also nationalizing aspects of federal elections to provide equal protections to voters across the country. This is precisely what House Democrats sought to accomplish with HR1, also known as the For the People Act. The bill passed the House earlier this month but now will have to pass the Senate where the Democratic majority is slimmer.
This bill would create minimum standards for voting and destroy many of the voter ID laws across the US. It would restore voting rights to former felons and allow for no-excuse mail-in voting. The For the People Act also would require states to have same-day and automatic voter registration. Republicans don’t like these proposed rule changes because they would hinder their ability to win elections going forward. The right would much rather stop people from voting if the alternative is losing their chance at power. Perhaps this will be the issue that will convince centrist Senate Democrats to change their minds on the filibuster. Guaranteeing access to the ballot box would help strengthen American democracy and the Democratic Party at the same time. But it cannot get done with only 51 votes, so Democrats would need to find ten Republicans or, more likely, change the Senate rules.
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