H.R 1 is dead. What’s next?

Democracy Examined

Voting rights have been in the news a lot lately, and for good reason. Voting can be difficult in America. 

In one particularly challenging state, you aren’t allowed to vote early, you can’t register to vote on Election Day, you need a state-approved excuse to vote absentee, and you must produce an ID. Of course, we’re talking about that notorious cradle of voter suppression: Delaware. 

That’s right––the president’s home state lacks some of the measures which even Georgia’s much-maligned new voting law preserves. Though President Biden branded Georgia’s new voter laws as “Jim Crow in the 21st century,” it still begs the question: is voting in Delaware more restricted than in Georgia?

Well, no. It’s still easier to vote in Delaware than Georgia, and, on average, it’s easier to vote in blue states than in red states. According to the Election Law Journalthe top 17 most difficult states to vote in are all controlled by Republicans. But without establishing clear principles about what exactly constitutes a free and fair election, many are bound to disregard Democratic criticisms as one-sided.

What could these principles look like?

We would include 4 key components, though this is not by any stretch an exhaustive list:

1) Expand access to early in-person voting for at least two weeks before an election

2) Automatically register eligible residents to vote

3) Allow changes to a voter’s registration on Election Day

4) Expand polling locations and hours to minimize long lines and wait times

To allay concerns about voter fraud, Democrats might even consider passing voter ID laws while also automatically providing a free, state-issued identification card to every adult resident.

Why is election reform important?

American elections are generally free and fair, but restrictive voting laws make it more challenging for all Americans to exercise their rights.

Indeed, many proposals that Republican legislatures have considered would limit the voting rights of key groups. One especially egregious example is Georgia’s attempt to end early voting on Sunday mornings, as if it were somehow less secure than voting on other days and unrelated to the “Souls to the Polls” events organized by Black churches. It should be especially concerning that the same people drafting these bills are the ones pushing the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

American elections are under threat, but it looks like national voting legislation isn’t a real possibility at the moment. Democratic legislatures should thus take it upon themselves to codify best practices and implement them immediately. Maybe then they would have the momentum to achieve more ambitious goals down the road.