Millions of American voters are casting their ballots in the state’s primary race to determine which candidates are up against in November’s midterm elections. The stakes are high for Democrats and Republicans, as the result will determine which political party controls both houses of Congress next year. The contest will test new voting laws in several states that restrict access to the ballot in the name of election security.
With barely six months until the midterm of 2022, the voting rights and voting integrity have sparked heated debate, topics that have long fueled passion in America. Broadly speaking, Democrats are in favor of making it easier and more convenient to vote, while Republican lawmakers in some states have passed laws to restrict voting access and increase scrutiny of ballot-casters.
“I think our democracy is at risk with these new laws,” said former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, a Democrat, at an event in Washington, D.C., at an event to unveil his new book, Calling the Country for Voting Rights. The history of the battle.
“Many citizens had only unfettered access to the ballot since the 1960s. Holder told the VOA earlier this month it was now trying to make voting harder, not easier.
This year, at least 27 Republican-led states have introduced or enacted a total of 250 pieces of voting legislation, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Initiatives have ranged from limiting earlier or absentee voting to implementing stricter voter identification requirements. The flurry of activity comes after 19 state legislatures approved 34 restrictive voting laws in 2021.
Republicans said the measures are designed to prevent voter fraud and ensure the integrity of the election. Democrats and voting rights advocates oppose that the new law would adversely affect the ability of African Americans and other minority groups to vote.
The laws raise Democrats’ fears before the midterm. Not only are major minority constituencies that vote Democratic, registering low levels of dismay and voter enthusiasm in the current election, those who intend to vote in November may find it more difficult to do so in many states.
“I think many African Americans are concerned about more voting restrictions,” said Jatia Righton, a professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. “Establishing ways to increase voting participation is one of the key ways we see change in black communities.”
A US federal appeals court recently cleared the way for a restrictive voting law to go into effect in Florida. The court said earlier this month that a lower court order blocking parts of the law was issued very close to the state’s primary elections in August.
US District Court Judge Mark Walker, who blocked the voting law last March, said Florida state legislators intentionally wrote provisions to suppress voting by black voters. The new measures include tighter rules on mailed ballots, reducing the number of ballot dropoff boxes, limiting voter registration campaigns and preventing people from giving food or other aid to those waiting in line to vote.
But when Walker found that the right to vote in Florida was “under siege,” the appeals court argued for a “presumption of legislative harmony” between Florida’s elected state representatives, who drafted the bill.
The reaction outside the courts has been swift.
Jasmine Burney-Clark, founder of Florida-based voting rights group Equal Ground, said, “Let’s be clear, this law in Florida undoes the progress that voting rights groups have made and is used by minority communities like ours to increase voter turnout. targeted devices. , said in a statement.
Not so, according to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 Republican presidential nominee.
“I don’t think there is any other place in the country where you should have more confidence that your vote matters than the state of Florida,” he said during a recent news conference.
DeSantis has made voting legislation a major priority. He recently prompted the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to adopt a new law to create the Office of Election Crime and Security. Its staff of 15 people will conduct preliminary investigations into suspected electoral fraud and investigate voting complaints.
“We just want to make sure that whatever laws are on the books, those laws are enforced,” DeSantis said.
The new measure is the second major change to Florida’s election laws since the November 2020 election in which Democrat Joe Biden defeated then-President Donald Trump, and Democrats regained control of both houses of Congress.
Florida and other Republican-led states have taken action amid persistent false claims by Trump and his supporters that his election defeat was the result of widespread electoral fraud. Those claims were rejected by several courts and state election officials. Extensive research has found that voter fraud in the US is extremely rare and commonly detected. An Associated Press investigation found fewer than 475 possible cases of voter fraud out of 25.5 million ballots cast in six states where Trump and his allies disputed their loss to Biden.
Voting rights advocates have called on the Justice Department to ensure free and fair elections across the country. However, the department has limited powers following a 2013 US Supreme Court decision (Shelby County v. Holder), which eliminated part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Before making changes to state election laws, the High Court removed states with a history of voting discrimination that required pre-approval from the Justice Department.
The case centered around an Alabama county suing Holder for preventing the Justice Department from enforcing key sections of the Voting Rights Act.
Holder said, “Soon after the Supreme Court’s decision, you saw that states across the country implemented voter suppression measures that had been restricted (part of the Voting Rights) Act remained intact.” “The decision had a negative impact on our democracy.”
Efforts to gain congressional approval to protect voting rights nationwide stalled in Congress last year. The bill passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, but was eventually adjourned in the politically divided Senate.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named after the late Democratic representative and civil rights leader from Georgia, will restore the Justice Department’s review of changes to election laws in states with a history of discrimination. Another measure, called The Freedom to Vote Act, set nationwide standards for how elections are conducted and expanded the reach of voting.
Historically, it has been left to the individual states to determine how to conduct elections. Republican lawmakers opposed efforts to federalize voting in the US with the same rules set in Washington.
Earlier this year, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who was instrumental in blocking the voting law, took issue with any suggestion that the state legislature was seeking to disenfranchise black voters.
“The concern is misplaced because if you look at the statistics, black people vote at the same rates as all American voters,” McConnell said.
Despite an increasingly challenging legal landscape, voting rights groups say they will work even harder to motivate Americans to vote — and to remove any obstacles they may face in order to vote. could.