Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of democracy. However, for the duration of its history, the United States has been plagued by disenfranchisement and voter suppression. The 1965 Voting Rights Act, partly drafted in the Religious Action Center’s library, was a monumental step forward in protecting the freedom to vote. It helped block laws that denied Americans the equal right to vote based on race and enacted federal voting protections. Yet in the past two decades, Americans’ access to the ballot box has been curtailed through a range of actions.
The 2013 Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision gutted a crucial part of the Voting Rights Act which contained a formula requiring certain areas with a history of disenfranchisement problems to seek pre-clearance from the Department of Justice when making changes to election procedures. Just 24 hours after the release of the Shelby decision, Texas announced a plan to implement a strict photo ID requirement for voting. Since then, 21 states enacted new restrictive voting requirements and across 13 states, 1,688 polling sites have closed, which overwhelmingly impacts and limits access to the ballot for Communities of Color. Along with our partners, the Reform Movement continues to push for a restoration of the voting rights act and efforts to ensure equal access to the freedom to vote so that the promise of democracy is made real for us all.
Last November, despite the pandemic and a patchwork of barriers to the ballot box across the country, more than 159 million Americans voted in the 2020 elections, the highest rates seen in over a century. However, some elected officials want to roll back this progress by creating more barriers to vote. The right to vote is fundamental in a democracy and we must ensure that elections are accessible for all. The For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1) is a broad bill, that among its provisions, will protect the freedom to vote by establishing national standards for federal elections and ensuring that voter registration and voting options are equally accessible across the United States.
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