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Congress Can Stop the Assault on Voting Rights

The For the People Act would bar virtually all of the voter suppression measures being proposed in state legislatures.

March 16, 2021

Last week, John Kavanagh, a Republican state representative in Arizona, told CNN that “everybody shouldn’t be voting.” Arizona is one of 43 states where Republican lawmakers, citing fraud, are trying to make voting harder. They’re doing this even though the 2020 election was the most secure in history. Kavanagh went on to say, “Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well.”

Remarks like his have a long, ugly, racist history. They go back to the country’s founding, when only white men who owned property could vote. For two centuries and more, we’ve fought for the idea that all Americans have the right to an equal voice in government.

I’ve written in the Briefing about the overwhelming legislative assault on voting rights we’re seeing in state legislatures across the country. My colleagues estimate over 250 bills have been introduced that would make voting harder, two of which have already passed and many of which are aggressively moving through state legislatures. These bills have the potential to dramatically reduce voting access, especially for Black and brown voters.

But Congress can stop this. The For the People Act (H.R. 1/S. 1), which is expected to be introduced in the Senate this week after already passing the House, would thwart virtually every single one of these bills. To a greater degree than realized, the legislation is not just a valuable reform. It would work, immediately, to stop the worst abuses. A new Brennan Center resource shows how.

The For the People Act would create a national baseline for voting access that every American can rely on, and it would foil state efforts to manipulate voting rules to exclude eligible voters or create discriminatory outcomes. Our new resource outlines each of the major elements of the pending state voter suppression bills and explains how the For the People Act would address them.

While Republican lawmakers in 43 states are trying to keep people from voting, Congress has the opportunity to not just fight to uphold democracy, but to expand it. It’s not a moment for hand-wringing. The Senate must act quickly to pass the For the People Act.