The People’s Act: A necessity

Conor Kelly (TheLorian)

Democrats passed their signature voting rights legislation, The People’s Act, last Wednesday, March 3, setting up a fierce battle in the Senate. The act, which comes on the heels of a historic presidential election, is sure to provoke plenty of partisan rancor, especially among its Republican opponents. The act would expand voting rights for millions of Americans and vastly increase access, but it faces an uphill battle despite Democrat’s control over the House and Senate. Regardless of the difficulty, this act must become law.

When it comes to voting rights, the People’s Act is a massive extension of the right to vote. For one, the act would create a new automatic voter registration system that allows people to opt-out if they so chose to, ensuring that eligible Americans would register to vote as quickly as possible. It also mandates that states provide online registration options, information correction, and even cancelation to make voting more convenient. It would also end partisan gerrymandering, establishing independent commissions for redistricting efforts. Finally, it would restore voter registration to convicted felons who have completed their sentences. It would not, however, restore those rights to those who are still incarcerated. Inevitably, granting more power to the American people will receive a backlash from those in power.

The act comes in direct response to efforts by Republican lawmakers in state legislatures who are hellbent on enacting further restrictive policies on the right to vote. At least 253 bills that restrict voting access have been introduced in 43 states, most of which came from Republicans. There are currently 14 bills in 9 states that would restrict mail-in-voting, arguing that there are significant risks of voter fraud. This is even though the Cybersecurity Agency and Infrastructure Agency’s statements showing that the 2020 election, which saw a massive increase in mail-in-voting, was “the most secure in American history” and that the U.S. has been using mail ballots since the Civil War. Not to mention that fraud, generally and in ballot voting, is exceptionally rare.

What is disturbing to Republicans, however, is the increased voter turnout that comes with mail-in-ballots. States that use mail-in-ballots have seen an increase in voter turnout, and in 2020, 65.6 million Americans voted via the mail, including me. Protections in the People’s Act, such as the required 15 days of access to early voting sites, would help ease some of the damage done by these bills to voters. Hence, the reason Republicans in Congress and statehouses across the country want to kill the bill.

Former Vice-President Mike Pence is a perfect example of this. He released a misleading op-ed in the conservative Daily Signal, arguing that the bill would “increase opportunities for election fraud.” As previously noted, voter fraud is rare, but more than that, Pence’s fealty to this canard of so-called widespread voter fraud is an example of the very reason why the new bill is necessary. Republicans will not stop with their blatant attempts to hold onto power despite being the minority party.

Theirs is a position of desperation. To the Republicans, the 2020 election is an omen of what could come next. Despite their calls for instituting the people’s will, 67 percent of Americans support the People’s Act, according to the Data for Progress, a progressive polling organization. This broad support for the act is a nightmare for Republicans, who have increasingly depended upon voter suppression to keep their grips on power. Indeed, during the last 32 years, Republican presidential candidates have only won the popular vote twice, with 1988 and 2004 serving as their victories. Trump never won the popular vote, losing by 3 million votes to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and in 2020, Trump lost by about 7 million votes to now President Joe Biden. Republicans are losing ground to a rising tide of demographic change, and while Democrats are slowly capitalizing on it, Republicans will do everything in their power to stop that change even if they have to keep the people down to do it. Democrats must not let that happen.

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Conor J. Kelly was the Opinion Editor for the Lorian and a prolific staff writer. He graduated from Loras College in April of 2021 and is now pursuing his master's in political science at the University of Illinois, Springfield. You can find his new work on The Progressive American newsletter.

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