Protect Our Vote

The passage of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act is crucial to ensure the protection of voting rights in America.

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Steve Schaefer

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams speaks out in support of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act at the March on Atlanta for Voting Rights on Aug. 28.

Sophie Gromowsky, Copy Editor

On August 28, 1969, 250,000 people gathered in the nation’s capital to participate in the March on Washington, a massive protest advocating for the civil rights of African Americans. This August 28, on the anniversary of the historic demonstration, the March on Atlanta for Voting Rights was held in Atlanta, Georgia. The event was intended to show support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act. If enacted, these two bills will bring about the greatest reform of voting rights and democracy in the United States in half a century. The ratification of these acts is crucial to preserving democratic integrity in the United States and protecting the rights of American voters.

Demonstrators participating in the March on Atlanta for Voting Rights on Aug. 28 pass by a mural of John Lewis. The late U.S. Congressman and civil rights activist is the namesake of the of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. (Brynn Anderson)

Since last November’s presidential election, the U.S. has experienced a major push by lawmakers across the country to pass new legislation aimed at placing even greater restrictions on voting access. As of July 2021, eighteen states have instituted a total of thirty new laws which place voters at risk by making mail-in voting and early voting more difficult, imposing stricter voter ID requirements, and making faulty voter purges more likely, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The passage of such legislation is a direct attack on democracy, as these new laws implement a system of voting which is overly complicated and makes gaining access to the ballot much more difficult for millions of Americans, specifically people of color and those living in poverty, who are disproportionately affected by new voting restrictions.

The For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act would oppose such restrictions and take further action to preserve voter rights and make voting easier and more accessible. The For the People Act aims to protect and expand voting rights, make elections more secure, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and promote greater accountability within government, according to Common Cause. The bill would make election day a federal holiday, require secret money organizations active in elections to disclose donors, and expand conflict of interest law. Additionally, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act would require states with a history of voter discrimination to submit new election laws to the Justice Department for review before they can be implemented, according to the Washington Post. The passage of this bill would help to protect minority groups from voting discrimination.

Both acts face great opposition, however, which will make it difficult for them to pass through the Senate. One aspect of the For the People Act which has stirred up controversy is the restoration of voting rights for people with prior felony convictions, as some people argue that restricting the right to vote is a fair punishment for those who have been convicted of serious crimes. However, it is unfair that people who have served their sentences should be denied the right to vote, as restricting that right prevents them from fully reentering society. Many members of the Republican party have also spoken out against both bills, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who claims that the For the People Act is an attempt by Democrats to “change the system to benefit themselves.” Arguments such as this have no factual basis whatsoever, as many key reforms that the act would institute on a national level, such as no-excuse vote by mail and Automatic Voter Registration, have already been implemented at the state level in red, blue, and purple states. Additionally, 56% of Republican voters and 77% of Democratic voters support the For the People Act, according to a national poll conducted by Data for Progress, proving bipartisan support for the bill.

U.S. citizens have the right to make their voices heard by casting their ballot. It is the responsibility of our government to ensure that this right is protected by ensuring that elections are fair and that equal opportunities are afforded to every voter. Therefore, it is imperative that Congress pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, to preserve the integrity of democracy and to safeguard the voices of the American people.