For Our Communities to Thrive, Our Democracy Must Too

Photo by iStockphoto.com/SDI Productions

Voters cast their ballots at the highest rate in 120 years in the 2020 election. In response, anti-democracy Republicans have launched what’s being described as “the most concerted attempts to roll back voting rights since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.” Across the country, conservative legislators have already put forth 165 bills that make it harder for people to vote — nearly five times as many as in February of last year.

Rather than seeing 2020’s record voter turnout as something to be celebrated, extreme conservative politicians are frightened by the prospect of being voted out of office. Instead of working to reflect an increasingly diverse electorate which overwhelmingly wants environmental protection, climate action, and a thriving democracy where everyone’s voice can be heard, extreme conservative politicians are trying to keep anyone who disagrees with them away from the polls.

Their efforts are concentrated in states that flipped from Trump to Biden, or threaten to turn blue in upcoming election cycles, because of increased turnout among young people and people of color. In Georgia, Republican state legislators unveiled a suite of bills aimed at making it harder to register to vote, vote by mail, or vote absentee. One particularly egregious bill would require voters to submit identification twice in order to vote by mail.

In Arizona, where Biden narrowly eked out a win, extreme conservative politicians are considering a proposal to allow the state legislature to override the will of its voters and decide on its own how to assign the state’s electoral college votes. And in Texas, already one of the hardest states to vote in, Republican legislators are considering measures to suppress turnout even further, like creating shorter early voting periods.

These bills are part of a long, shameful history of white supremacist backlash to people of color, especially Black people, exercising their right to vote. Using intimidation, violence, and false claims of “voter fraud” to prevent Black people from having their votes counted is a tactic as old as the Klan. These racist tactics surfaced once again during this election, when Trump loyalists openly attempted to throw away votes from majority Black cities like Detroit.

We have a moral and strategic imperative to counter these racist attempts to disenfranchise voters. Everyone deserves to have their vote counted and their voice heard, and we won’t be able to fully address the crises our country faces without fixing our broken democracy. Right now, corporate polluters and other big-money donors are continuing to flood predominantly Republican politicians’ campaign coffers to try to silence the majority of US voters, who are calling for stronger protections for our air, water, and public lands; rapid action on the climate crisis; and achieving racial equity.

We’ve been beating back attempts to suppress the vote. We defied expectations by helping record numbers of people cast their votes this year. But it’s time for Congress to take action to restore fairness and justice in our elections. Tell your representatives to pass the For The People Act (H.R. 1), which will expand voting access, reinstate voting rights, end partisan gerrymandering, and curtail the power of big money in politics.

H.R. 1 won’t solve all the problems created by these state-level bills. That’s work our state and local chapters will have to continue to engage in (and we invite you to join them). But it will bring us closer to the fair, inclusive democracy we need to fully address our country’s greatest challenges — from achieving an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic to ending the climate crisis.

Dad, husband, executive director of the @sierraclub, writer, Jersey Shore native, Little League coach, #Yankees fan, climate hawk. Optimist. Love the Bay Area.

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