A voter takes advantage of the DCCC's "Cycle of Engagement Initiative" which provides greater access to voting for people of color. (Courtesy of DCCC)
Courtesy of DCCC

In all but six states, the 2021 legislative sessions have begun. And already state lawmakers have introduced hundreds of bills aimed at election procedures and voter access – far greater than the number of voting bills introduced by this time last year.

But many believe this rash of bills to be more about partisanship than streamlining the process of equal access to the right to vote as guaranteed by the Constitution.

In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election and based on a plethora of foundationless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced three times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to this time last year. Twenty-eight states have introduced, pre-filed or carried over 106 restrictive bills this year, compared to 35 such bills in 15 states on February 3, 2020).

American electoral politics has been dominated by two major political parties since shortly after the founding of the republic. Since the 1850s, they have been the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Since the last major party realignment in the mid-20th century, the Democratic Party has been the center-left and liberal party while the Republican Party has been the center-right and conservative party. Since the 1990s, both the Republican and Democratic parties have shifted further apart. However, this two-party system is based on laws, party rules and custom, not specifically outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

Several third parties also operate in the U.S., and from time to time elect someone to local office. The largest third party since the 1980s has been the Libertarian Party. Besides the Constitution, Green, and Libertarian parties, there are many other political parties that receive only minimal support and only appear on the ballot in one or a few states. But it should be noted that the need to win popular support in a republic led to the American invention of voter-based political parties in the 1790s. Party realignments have recurred periodically in response to social and cultural movements and economic development.

Ironically, the United States Constitution is silent on the subject of political parties. The Founding Fathers did not originally intend for American politics to be partisan. In Federalist Papers No. 9 and No. 10, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, respectively, wrote specifically about the dangers of domestic political factions. In addition, the first president of the United States, George Washington, was not a member of any political party at the time of his election or throughout his tenure as president. He hoped that political parties would not be formed, fearing conflict and stagnation, as outlined in his Farewell Address.

But following the 2020 elections in which we saw an unprecedented number of voters casting their ballots by mail, legislators across the U.S. have shown particular interest in absentee voting reform, with most bills aimed at altering absentee voting procedures in some way. Other bills would seek to modify how presidential electors are allocated or seek to adopt the national popular vote compact.

In reviewing the more restrictive bills, 28 states seek to: limit mail voting access; impose stricter voter ID requirements; limit successful pro-voter registration policies; and enable more aggressive voter roll purges.

These bills are an unmistakable response to the unfounded and dangerous lies about fraud that followed the 2020 election. Americans should not yield to partisanship or follow the tide of baseless allegations.

Voting should be made easier for citizens – all citizens – not made more difficult.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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