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March 18th, 2021
Republican legislatures are putting up barriers to voting. We need HR 1 to knock them down

Originally published in the Arizona Republic.

Listening to Republicans in the state Legislature and Arizona’s House Republican delegation in Washington, you would think the 2020 elections were the most corrupt and mismanaged in history.

Absurd theories run the gamut, from droves of undocumented immigrants voting to illegally discarded mail-in ballots, to thousands of dead people casting votes.

According to them, these unproven instances certainly stole the presidential election from Donald Trump, but interestingly had no impact on their own races in which they claimed victory.

For months, they have pushed this dangerous narrative that will irreparably harm voter confidence in the integrity of our election. Now they are using these baseless conspiracy theories to suppress the right to vote.

Emboldened by lies and fearful or their own loss of position and power, Republicans in the Arizona Legislature have introduced a slew of bills aimed at severely limiting the right to vote. They’ve done this under the guise of “election integrity.”

With practiced surgical precision, they’ve identified the processes that communities of color, younger voters and low-income voters most utilize to vote, and seek to limit or end them entirely.

In this session alone, state Republicans have introduced more than 40 anti-democratic bills ranging from purging voters from the permanent early voting list and requiring notarizations for mail-in ballots to mandating in-person drop-offs for mail ballots and permanently eliminating Arizona’s popular vote-by-mail system.

With these restrictions, they’ve perpetuated a system that will retain Republican power – regardless of the will of the voters.

How can they get away with this? Just ask many of these same Republicans. For decades, they used the moniker of “states’ rights” to undermine federal voter protections. Little by little they chipped away at the bedrock 1965 Voting Rights Act that millions of people of color rely upon to protect their vote.

When the Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder decision gutted a key enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, the floodgates opened. States like Arizona, which previously required federal preclearance for changes to election law, could do whatever they pleased.

In the years following the Shelby decision, Arizona election officials closed approximately 320 voting sites in 13 Arizona counties. In Maricopa County alone, there were 171 fewer polling locations in 2018 than 2012.

The failure of Arizona and other states to safeguard the right of their citizens to vote means we need strong federal action to do so. I recently introduced the Voting Access Act to establish minimum national standards for conducting federal elections.

Many of the provisions in my bill were included in the landmark H.R. 1 For the People Act that passed the House of Representatives earlier this month.

The legislation is a bold package of government reforms aimed at cleaning up corruption, protecting the right to vote and restoring the integrity of our elections. It makes voting easier by expanding automatic voter registration and same-day registration, strengthens vote-by-mail and early voting, combats voter intimidation and suppression efforts, and ends the prevalence of “dark money” in politics.

While not exhaustive, it’s an important first step to removing the barriers to voting that so many people still face. Without it, states like Arizona will continue to do what they please with your access to the ballot box.

The story of the right to vote is the story of America itself, an imperfect beginning always striving towards improvement. It’s the story of suffragettes picketing the White House lawn and communities of color marching through the streets in the face of violence. This fight continues today.

We can’t allow Republicans – at the state or federal level – to justify curtailing your hard-fought right to vote with conspiracy theories and lies. We also can’t allow important legislation that protects our democracy to languish in the Senate under the guise of protecting arcane rules like the filibuster and deny the citizens of Arizona and the nation their right to vote.

The Senate must pass H.R. 1 with a simple majority to begin undoing the immoral actions of states like Arizona and ensure that the fight for the right to vote remains a sacred foundation of our democracy.

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