Tuesday the Senate voted on whether to begin debate on S1, the For the People Act, which would protect voting rights, establish new ethics rules, end gerrymandering, and reduce big money in politics. As expected every single Republican voted against opening debate on this bill so it did not happen because 60 favorable votes are necessary to prevent a filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, claimed the bill is a “power grab” by Democrats which would “tilt every election in America permanently in their favor.” So let’s examine the present “tilt”.
After every census states have to redraw the boundaries of their legislative districts based on population. Gerrymandering means that the party in power draws the boundaries in such a way that the opposing party does not get the number of representatives they are entitled to. Since Republicans control the majority of state legislatures, they have used this to great advantage.
In 2010 Republican political consultant, Karl Rove, said, “He who controls redistricting can control the government” and the “Redmap Plan” he devised worked very well. For example, in the 2012 election in Pennsylvania, Democratic candidates won 51% of the total votes but ended up with only 28% of the seats in the legislature. Thus at present gerrymandering obviously “tilts” elections toward Republicans. The For the People Act would eliminate gerrymandering and eliminate any “tilt” by requiring redistricting to be done by independent commissions. No wonder McConnell opposes it.
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Regarding voting rights, the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab reports that “18 states have put in place more than 30 laws restricting access to the ballot. These laws will affect about 15% of all eligible voters.” Many more restrictive laws are still being discussed in 47 states despite the fact that voter fraud is practically nonexistent. The bills are targeted to discourage voting among citizens who tend to vote for Democrats. McConnell defends this saying that states have the right to enact any voting laws they choose. However, in North Carolina a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals threw out a voting law that “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision,” The For The People Act would prevent these targeted attacks by increasing voter access, expanding early voting, allowing same-day voter registration, enacting automatic registration for federal elections, requiring paper ballots, and allowing anyone to vote by mail if they choose. McConnell doesn’t like the fact that the Act would stop states from tilting their election laws to benefit Republicans.
In regard to campaign finance, S1 would require dark money groups to disclose donors, force social media companies to reveal the source of money for political ads, require politicians to wait longer after leaving office to become lobbyists, and require all presidents, vice presidents and major party candidates to release their tax returns to the public. McConnell with his vast dark money network opposes this, saying spending money on politics is a fundamental First Amendment right and should have no restrictions.
The truth is that Republicans see gerrymandering, voter restrictions, and dark money as necessary “tilts” to keep them in power so they fear fair elections and fear encouraging greater voter turnout. When Donald Trump was asked about expanding voting rights last year he responded, “if you ever agreed to it you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again." Last November Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, “The US will never again elect a Republican president unless lawmakers ‘do something’ about mail-in voting.” It’s time to eliminate the “tilt” in elections by passing the For the People Act.
Roger Haglund lives in Moorhead.
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.