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There are countless issues where ideological differences between the two parties are understandable, but voting rights shouldn’t be one of them.
Every elected official in America should be working to defend the right to vote of every eligible voter—regardless of their political background. That is the cornerstone of our democracy. The voting booth is the one place all Americans are equal and have an equal say in the future of this country and their place in it. No one should be kept from it by politics.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to deliver remarks on voting rights during a speech on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., January 11, 2022. ( )
Our founders established a government of the people, by the people, and for the people—but too often, lately, the government has been in the business of deciding which people, exactly, get to participate. That’s not democratic and it’s not American.
I don’t want anyone to have to wait hours in line to cast their vote, or to have to struggle to find a polling place, or make sure they haven’t been purged from the voter rolls, whether they are in my party or not. We don’t have to agree on who to vote for, but we have to agree on the fundamental importance of the vote.
President Joe Biden speaks in support of changing the Senate filibuster rules to ensure the right to vote is defended, at Atlanta University Center Consortium, on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Atlanta. ( )
This is a watershed moment for our democracy, and we must set aside our differences to meet it. The right to vote should always be an issue that transcends partisan politics—for decades, it was. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush all supported voting rights during their time in office. And when the Senate passed the Voting Rights Act extension in 2006, it passed 98-0.
Legislation like the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act should have that same kind of unanimous bipartisan support today. These are pieces of legislation with a noble, simple goal: to ensure that you are able to vote knowing your vote will be counted and respected.
FILE – This June 16, 2010 file photo, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., participates in a ceremony to unveil two plaques recognizing the contributions of enslaved African Americans in the construction of the United States Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Instead, these pieces of legislation are being blocked by those who would rather traffic in baseless, disproven claims of voter fraud and stolen elections. The American people deserve better. They know that there’s only one way to truly provide “election integrity” and it is to stem this tide of attacks on our democracy.
We have worked for months to build bipartisan support for these bills. Unfortunately, every time we try to move these bills forward, we are met with partisan resistance. Too many of my colleagues across the aisle won’t even support a vote to open debate, abusing the filibuster—a once rarely-used mechanism that has now become gum in the works of democracy.
If something as fundamental and important as protecting voting rights can be slowed or stopped by the filibuster, then it is time for us to reconsider the filibuster’s role in the Senate. The rules for using the filibuster have been changed before, such as when then-Majority Leader McConnell lowered the voting threshold for Supreme Court nominees.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., discusses Democrats proposed filibuster changes at a press conference in the Russell Senate Office Building on Jan. 11, 2022. (Tyler Olson/Fox News)
The filibuster is not a product of the Constitution or a pillar of our democracy, but the right to vote is. In a moment such as this, when so much is on the line, it is clear—if we need to reform the filibuster rules to protect the right to vote, then we must.
Before civil rights hero and Congressman John Lewis passed, we worked together on a bill called the Voter Empowerment Act. Congressman Lewis, who knew more acutely than most the power of the right to vote, said “the right to vote is precious, almost sacred.” I agree, and I’m confident that nearly every American feels the same.
We need principled men and women of both parties who support the rule of law to stand up for democracy and for the right to vote. Voters, and the people they vote for, must reject the lies—big and small—being told about our elections and remember that our rights and our futures are linked together. In order to protect our ability to be heard at the ballot box at the next election, we must make ourselves heard now.