The constitutional right to vote
Voters’ rights have been in the headlines recently because of the controversial bills that have been seen before the Senate. Of these important hot-topic bills is the Freedom to Vote Act.
It has recently come to my attention that now we are arguing as a society about voting. This time last year, I thought that we were talking about how more people should be voting. Furthermore, the last election had a record-breaking voter turnout.
However, for a reason I suspect is more malicious than it may seem, Republicans don’t want people to vote anymore, and that is the stupidest, most antithetical, un-democratic thing I have ever heard.
The Freedom to Vote Act
The Freedom to Vote Act is a revised version of the For the People Act. The legislation is exactly as it sounds; it protects voters’ rights.
Some of the key provisions of the act include early voting, mail-in voting, making the election day a holiday, voting rights restoration to those who were previously incarcerated, protections for individuals with disabilities, enhanced ballot and protection record, redistricting reform and campaign finance, among many other important changes.
It didn’t pass the Senate
All of these changes will help Americans who otherwise wouldn’t be able to make it to the polls get there. It helps make sure every American voice is counted and is heard. Simply put, it’s common-sense legislation.
And yet, it didn’t pass. It needed 60 votes to pass, and it was 51 to 49. Not a single Republican senator voted in favor of passing the bill.
That is so disappointing. Republican states have been on a voter-restricting trend recently, with the Brennan Center for justice reporting, “People in Georgia can now be charged with a crime for handing out water or snacks to voters waiting in line at the polls. In Iowa and Kansas, people could face criminal charges for returning ballots on behalf of voters who may need assistance, such as voters with disabilities.”
Why pass legislation to make voting more difficult? Republicans should be making their policies more aligned with the wants and needs of the people, not making it, so fewer people will vote so they can win. I can’t help but feel that the passing of legislation comes from that reasoning.
Voting is so foundational to our country. After so many years that women and people of color have worked for voting rights, it seems like a step backward to enact these new restrictive laws.
Was the bill unconstitutional?
The main argument posed by Republicans was that the bill was federal overreach. Garret Epps, a writer for the Atlantic, said it best, “Neither the American people nor the federal courts would tolerate restrictions of this sort if they were imposed on free speech, free assembly, freedom of religion or freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances.”
If the Republican party is going to hold true to our right to bear arms and our right to free speech, it should equally support our freedom to vote.
Article 1 of the Constitution says that the right to vote and hold elections should be held and managed by the states. However, historically there have been many amendments to this article.
There is the 15th amendment, the 19th amendment, the 24th amendment and the 26th amendment. All of these amendments essentially are various forms of voter protection bills.
All of these amendments make it so that you can not prevent anyone based on color, gender and age. The 24th amendment also makes it so that things like poll taxes can’t be used to prevent people from voting.
Preventing water from being given to people waiting in line and making mail ballot boxes more scarce seems almost worse than a poll tax because it is so underhanded, disconnected from what it would be like to vote in the 21st century. It goes to show how little these government officials understand their constituents.
So not only do we have historical precedence for protecting the people’s vote, we have constitutional precedence. And all of these amendments have a second section that says, “The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
The argument that the passing of this bill is government overreach is shaky at best. If the Republican party wants to protect my rights, fantastic. Do what you say you’re going to do. Actually, protect my constitutional rights then.
This leads me to my earlier statement that Republicans don’t want people who disagree with their policies to vote. That is the only other explanation I can think of for why all 50 choose not to move forward with a vote.
I think we are about to see some major changes to the filibuster laws that prevented this bill from being passed, and I can’t wait to see what happens because removing the filibuster to pass the act would be unprecedented.