We are in a real struggle. The 2020 election drew the United States’ highest voter turnout in more than a century, breaking records despite the pandemic. Yet we can’t seem to figure out how we are going to make our right to vote more protected. More to the point: Politicians can’t decide how we can make voting benefit them.
It is doing irreparable harm to our democracy.
In a backlash to this historic voter participation, state lawmakers nationwide have proposed and enacted legislation to make it harder for Americans to vote, justifying these measures with falsehoods steeped in racism about election irregularities and breaches of election security.
Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 1, at least 19 states enacted 33 laws that make it harder for Americans to vote.
At the same time, lawmakers in many states responded to Americans’ eagerness to vote by making it easier for eligible voters to cast their ballots. At least 25 states enacted 62 laws with provisions that expand voting access.
Clearly, it does not balance the scales. The states that have enacted restrictive laws tend to be ones in which voting is already relatively difficult, while the states that have enacted expansive laws tend to have relatively more accessible voting processes. In other words, access to the right to vote increasingly depends on the state in which a voter happens to reside, the Brennan Center for Justice pointed out recently.
Congress has the power to protect American voters from the kinds of restrictions enacted so far this year. The Freedom to Vote Act is a comprehensive package of voting, redistricting and campaign finance reforms. It includes national standards for voting that would ensure access to the ballot across state lines.
Two weeks ago, Senate Democrats’ most forceful and perhaps last push for major voting rights legislation this year was blocked by a Republican filibuster.
The procedural vote to move forward with the Freedom to Vote Act failed despite Democrats’ effort to craft a compromise bill led in part by Sen. Joe Manchin. The West Virginia Democrat had hoped to get enough GOP votes to overcome a filibuster, but in the end no Republicans voted to advance the legislation.
Democrats say federal voting legislation is needed to counteract a wave of new restrictions from Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country. Critics of those laws say they are making it more difficult to vote, particularly for people of color.
The Freedom to Vote Act would have, among other things, established Election Day as a national holiday, set national minimum standards for early voting and voting by mail, and created new requirements for groups not currently required to disclose their financial donors. It also included standards for states that require voter identification.
And now we have the Facebook Papers, which also signals a further erosion of our democratic values.
The Facebook Papers represents a unique collaboration among 17 American news organizations, including The Associated Press. Journalists worked together to gain access to thousands of pages of internal company documents obtained by Frances Haugen, the former Facebook product manager-turned-whistleblower. The papers themselves are redacted versions of disclosures that Haugen has made through several months to the Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging Facebook was prioritizing profits over safety and hiding its own research from investors and the public.
These complaints cover a range of topics, from its efforts to continue growing its audience, to how its platforms might harm children, to its alleged role in inciting political violence. The same redacted versions of those filings are being provided to members of Congress as part of its investigation. And that process continues as Haugen’s legal team goes through the process of redacting the SEC filings by removing the names of Facebook users and lower-level employees and turns them over to Congress.
Common Cause this week released a report report on election disinformation, including a comprehensive set of reforms needed to curb this huge and growing problem and protect our right to vote in elections. “As a Matter of Fact: The Harms Caused by Election Disinformation” details the seriousness and scale of the threat, current applicable state and federal laws, and the woefully inadequate and inconsistent civic integrity policies of the social media giants. The report concludes with a sweeping series of reform recommendations to better enable us to fight back against election disinformation.
Its conclusion says it all: “Together, we must educate ourselves, demand rigorous enforcement of existing laws to stop election disinformation, and pass new laws to protect our right to vote and to stop a small faction from sabotaging our elections.”
Visit www.commoncause.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/CC_AsaMatterofFact_FINAL_10.27.21.pdf to read the report online.