On January 18, the Senate failed to pass key voting rights legislation- the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act- that would ultimately make it easier for all Americans to vote and reverse efforts by several states to limit ballot access. Despite Democrats expressing support for these two pieces of legislation, under current antiquated Senate rules, it takes 60 senators to end debate and proceed with a vote, and because we don’t have 60 senators favoring the voting rights acts, the legislation did not pass through the Senate. Curbing voter suppression and making the voting process easier for working Americans should not. be a partisan issue, but over the years it has increasingly become so.
The disheartening truth about America today is that politics and polarization amongst parties have dwarfed the true nature of democracy and what America should be, a place where all citizens should have an equal chance at casting their ballot without interference from repressive laws that hinder their ability to do so.
Having to wait in long lines, for example, is one of the key contributing factors that are discouraging voters from participating in elections. Let’s note that the majority of Americans have to get out of bed in the morning and go into work to provide for their families; and having to wait in six-hour lines -maybe more-can force many to choose between participating in the democratic process or risk hindering their pay. COVID-19 and the 2020 election exposed serious issues in our electoral system, and it has made the need for voter reform dire.
As an article from the Brennan Center For Justice reports, Black and Latino Americans face longer wait times on Election Day than white voters. What does that tell you? Who are the American people to blame? Who is responsible for shutting down multiple traditional polling locations in Black and Brown neighborhoods or college campuses, trying to limit voting hours or drop boxes making it harder to vote rather than easier? I’ll give you all a hint and say the culprit begins with the letter “R.”
In the words of journalist Ari Berman, “it’s unconscionable in America that people should have to wait for hours to vote. Yes, it’s a sign of voter enthusiasm but it’s also a modern-day poll tax to make people with jobs/kids/families wait 3 or 6 or 12 hours to vote. Many people do not have the luxury to wait that long to vote and a certain number of people will leave the line or decide not to vote at all if the lines are that long.”
As New Jersey Senator Cory Booker stated during his speech on the floor during the debate of whether or not to pass two key voting rights legislation, “No matter what person stands against this Equality Act, they stand on the wrong side of history. The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice, but it will never bend automatically, we need some arc benders, and for too many people in this country… justice delayed is justice denied.”
We have to all be willing to be arc benders. We Are Gen Z.