Marc MorialOp-EdOpinion

MORIAL: First-Ever Civil Rights Scorecard Grades Senators On Performance Defending Voting Rights

“Partisan sabotage bills … are a new and dangerous twist on the same legislative agenda. Each is driven by the Big Lie that there is widespread voter fraud. And each is part of a broader ongoing partisan project to thwart democratic elections and rig electoral outcomes, especially by undermining or canceling the votes of people of color. Each is antidemocratic and toxic to a free and fair society. And each demands urgent intervention by Congress to prevent irreparable corruption of our electoral system.” — The Brennan Center, “The Election Sabotage Scheme and How Congress Can Stop It”

How much do your senators care about voter suppression? How committed are they to our most sacred constitutional right? What have they done, and what are they willing to do, to defend it?

The Civil Rights Scorecard answers those questions.

Released this month by National Urban League, along with the NAACP, National Action Network, National Coalition of Black Civic Participation, Fighting for Our Vote Initiative, and National Council of Negro Women, the Scorecard provides civil rights advocates and their supporters with clear insights into the voting patterns of their Senate delegations.

There is no greater crisis facing our nation at this moment than the preservation of democracy. History will judge every member of the Senate on their commitment to democratic principles. The Civil Rights Scorecard is not just a measure of each senator’s voting record. It is a measure of their character, their integrity, and their patriotism.

The grades are based on senators’ votes on the American Rescue Plan Act, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the For the People Act, along with each senator’s stance on the filibuster — a once-rare procedure has been weaponized to block major legislation, including voting rights protection bills.

As the Scorecard notes, “the divide between the 51st and 60th vote in the Senate is unbridgeable with the Senate split along partisan lines.”

Senators were awarded one point for each “yes” vote on the three bills, and zero points for a “no” vote, abstention or not voting.
Their stance on the filibuster, which comprised 50 percent of their overall score — was worth three points for abolishing the filibuster, two for reforming it, one for willingness to change it and zero for retaining the filibuster as it currently exists.

Senators with a score of 2.1 to 3 earned an “A” grade; those with a score of 1 to 2 earned an “I” for “incomplete,” and those with a score of 0.9 or lower earned an “F.”

The Scorecard focused on voting rights because every other right stems directly from it. Without the right to vote we have no say. No voice. No seat at the table to determine public policy on policing, education, or economic equity.

“A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law,” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Stacey Abrams expounded on this reality in “Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America”: “As millions are stripped of their rights, we live out the policy consequences, from lethal pollution running through poor communities to kindergartners practicing active shooter drills taught with nursery rhymes.”

Our democracy is cracking at the seams. It is crumbling before our eyes. The Scorecard is a clanging alarm, alerting every member of the United States Senate that we expect them to honor their constitutional duty and to do everything in their power to protect democracy, including abolishing or reforming the filibuster.

Morial is president/CEO of the National Urban League.

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