by Linda Willet
In 2020, America celebrated the 100-year anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. And in 2020 and early 2021, women of all ethnic groups joined together to march and protest for social justice for everyone in our nation.
The pandemic brought a heightened awareness of the inequality in our nation, and more importantly, it demonstrated that it takes the abilities of all of us to run this nation: from the farmer in the field, to the mail delivery person, to the worker in the meat packing plant, and to the representatives in Congress. We are all interconnected in our work to meet the needs of our citizens and to keep our country a symbol of democracy.
This awareness also highlighted the need for everyone to vote, and people realized that their one vote could make a difference when combined with the one vote of all like-minded citizens. Even in areas where states made it harder for people in rural areas to vote, people waited in line for hours to have their voices heard at the ballot box.
The fervor over the November election and the victory of Joe Biden caused Republican officials in some states to change the rules about voting so their party could retain control in the state legislatures. One of the most restrictive voting bills failed to pass in Texas on May 30th when Democrats walked out of the House, causing the chamber to miss the deadline for voting. Governor Abbott (R) retaliated by stating he would withhold pay for those members who walked out. The governor is also planning to bring up the bill again in a special legislative session, so citizens in Texas need to be on the alert and contact their state representatives. The bill has restrictions that would make it more difficult to vote by mail and would prohibit drive-up voting, which was used successfully during the pandemic. It would also give power to partisan poll watchers and penalize election administrators.
Trouble is also brewing in Arizona where unproved claims of voting irregularities have led to several audits, all of which proved that the election results were accurate. However, Republicans ordered another audit, which is being conducted in secret by a company with no experience in auditing. The legislature is also considering requiring IDs with vote by mail applications and moving up the postmark deadline for ballots, the most alarming proposal in the bill advocates stripping certain powers from the Secretary of State, who certifies the election result. The current Secretary of State is a Democrat.
Georgia enacted a new law on March 25th that brought an outcry across the nation and led to the arrest of Democratic state Representative Park Cannon who knocked on the governor’s door when he was signing the bill, even though Republicans were allowed to witness the signing. The bill contains stringent rules for voter IDs, shortens the timeframe for voting early and voting by absentee ballot, gives the State Election Board new powers to remove officials elected by the people, and makes it illegal to provide food and water for people waiting for hours in long lines to vote. Major league baseball voiced its disapproval by stating that the 2021 All Star Game and MLB Draft will not be held in Atlanta as previously planned. In addition, major companies such as Coke and Delta Airlines also condemned the bill.
However, these are just a handful of the examples. At this point, 14 states have passed laws that make it more difficult to vote, but according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 389 bills in 48 states have been introduced. These bills are a call to action for all citizens who want to protect our democracy and the right of all citizens to vote.
The fight for voting rights is ongoing. We must be aware of what is happening in our country, state, and county and voice our opinions as we prepare for the 2022 midterm elections. And most of all, we must vote in every election and encourage others to vote. Our democracy is at stake.