Letter: Voting rights legislation needed

To the editor:

In the last edition of The Democrat, two writers took issue with Judy East’s letter to the editor supporting the For the People Act, HR-1. I appreciate The Democrat for giving both sides the opportunity to respond and I’d like to address their criticisms.

One incorrect criticism was that voter ID laws would be banned. Not true. HR-1 does not “ban” voter identification laws. Instead, it offers a workaround to state voter IDs for individuals who do not have the means to obtain identification. Voters may alternatively present a sworn, written statement to an election official under penalty of perjury that states the voter is eligible to vote. Voter ID requirements burden certain voters due to the costs associated with obtaining photo identification or other forms of government issued-ID. This primarily affects voter turnout among homeless individuals, Native Americans, in low-income communities and in communities of color by as much as 3-percent, according to a 2014 study by the Office of Government Accountability. Giving the homeless and poor the opportunity to vote is a good thing.

Another criticism was that the bill “enshrines ballot harvesting.” The bill shall “permit a voter to designate any person to return their sealed absentee ballot, as long as the person doesn’t get paid based on the number of ballots returned.” In other words, if you are unable to return your sealed ballot, you can designate someone to do it for you.

The writer claims the bill prevents states from maintaining accurate lists of voters, not true. Unfortunately, some states purge voters from the rolls for political reasons, like Georgia in 2019 that was ordered to restore 22,000 largely minority voters to the rolls. The legislation calls for “standards governing the comparison of data for voter registration list maintenance purposes” and that standards must be public and applied in a uniform and nondiscriminatory manner. Keeping valid voters on the rolls is a good thing.

The writers claims felons can now vote under this bill. The bill states that citizens convicted of a crime shall still be allowed to vote “unless such individual is serving a felony sentence in a correctional institution or facility at the time of the election.” In other words those that have paid their debt to society are allowed to vote. Is this so wrong? Currently, 19 states allow felons to vote after they have completed their sentences.

The author notes the bill requires the states count undocumented immigrants for redistricting. The census bureau by law already counts undocumented in the census and they are already counted in redistricting regardless of this bill.

The writer complained about online registration. As of October 2020, a total of 40 states and District of Columbia offer online registration. The systems have proved to be secure, easy to use and cheaper to operate. Indiana offers online registration. This is a non-issue.

The writers complain about same day registration. As of June 30, 2019, 21 states and the D.C. had enacted same day registration. Same day voter registration has not proven to cause voter fraud and boosts turnout by 3 to 7 percent. This would make this uniform in all states. Boosting turnout is a good thing.

The writer complained the bill limits free speech. The bill aims to limit dark money in politics, including a requirement to disclose donations over $10,000 to politically active nonprofits. It also calls for online ads to be transparent and include disclaimers. Don’t we want to know if foreign countries are trying to influence our elections? It would not prevent anyone’s speech, but it would force those buying online ads or making large contributions, as the Russians did in the 2016 election, to disclose the source. Isn’t identifying those trying to influence our elections with big money donations a good thing?

The For the People Act would set fair, baseline standards to reverse the coordinated, Republican-led state efforts to restrict voting at the state level. More than 250 such restrictive bills have already been filed or carried over in state legislatures this year. For example, Georgia is proposing a law shutting down voting on Sunday. A substantial number of Blacks voted on Sunday after church, and they voted Democrat. We should not be putting up barriers to vote. We need HR-1 to guarantee these restrictive measures and others like them don’t deny our fellow citizens their right to vote.

Denny Kubal, Brown County