Ready or not, here it comes. After having a year free of political campaigning, it’s another year of broken promises. It is midterm election year.
My first clue was receiving a new voter registration card just before Christmas. It was just a friendly reminder that I am qualified to vote this year. Not that I was ever doubtful of my eligibility, but with all public outcry about new voter protection rights, it made me wonder.
Who in this country with a desire to vote could be prevented from voting? Are there actual ways to suppress a citizen’s ability to vote? Are there concerted efforts to keep certain demographics from voting?
In my lifetime, there have been great measures taken to get more people to participate in the voting process. When 60 percent of eligible voters turn out to vote in a national election is considered great, it may warrant looking at procedural changes. Thus, the advent of privileges like early voting and mail-in voting and late registration. But, even those steps have not significantly affected voter apathy.
If great steps to make voting easier and more convenient haven’t greatly improved voter participation, why is there even a need to try to prevent voters from exercising their right? And why do we need new national voting legislation as the country’s No. 1 agenda?
After the 2020 election, the following year saw some measures taken in some states to change some voting rules. Georgia made it illegal to pass out water to voters standing in long lines. Sure, that seems darn right silly. But what is even sillier is that Georgia voters could not get around that ruling by simply taking a bottle of water with them. Do we really need a federal law to protect people who are not smart enough to prepare for a long period out in the elements? If we are able to determine that we need beer for the July 4th cookout, we certainly ought to be able to realize we might get thirsty while waiting for hours in a long line to vote. We have often heard that many people have died for our right to vote. Then enduring a little thirst is a small price to pay to exercise that right.
There are currently two voting rights bills topping the current administration’s agenda. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. The John Lewis Act would make it “illegal for any state to implement rules that discriminate on the basis of race, language or ethnicity. And it would empower voters to challenge discriminatory laws.” Forgive my ignorance, but I thought those protections were already in place.
The Freedom to Vote Act in a nutshell would, “solidify comprehensive voter protections, including a minimum of 15 days for early voting, mail-in ballots and making Election Day a national holiday.” The bill would also establish national standards for voter identification and require states to use voting systems that produce a verifiable paper trail.
I am a big fan of early voting. It is convenient. But if removed, that would not alter my ability to vote. If mail-in ballots returned to being allowed solely to voters who know in advance they will not be able to vote in person on election day, that too, would not constitute voter suppression.
Making Election Day a national holiday sounds like a really great idea on paper. Currently, less than 60 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. So, we give the other 40 percent a day off to not participate? An Election Day holiday would resemble Labor Day, our national holiday weekend that acknowledges the advancement of labor which allows those who don’t want to work to enjoy the benefits.
I just don’t buy the notion that anyone who really wants to vote can be denied. Voting is one of the simplest government processes we have. The only suppression a voter may face is their own lack of resolve to vote.
The act of voting is an individual priority. And we already have that freedom.