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What a year. It began with reason to hope for the health of our demo­cracy. The 2020 elec­tion had the highest turnout since 1900, despite the pandemic. It was a real achieve­ment.

That hope quickly deflated under the weight of what came next. Trump’s Big Lie of a stolen elec­tion. A viol­ent insur­rec­tion at the Capitol. A wave of new laws in the states to restrict the vote, and, perhaps even more alarm­ing, to let partis­ans tally the results. Today, one in three Amer­ic­ans does not accept the results of the 2020 elec­tion. Trump’s attemp­ted coup was sham­bolic. There is no guar­an­tee the next one will be, and his allies are system­at­ic­ally seek­ing to remove all obstacles to rigging the 2022 and 2024 votes. 

So this has been a year of extraordin­ary effort at the Bren­nan Center. We’re in a great fight for the future of Amer­ican demo­cracy. Noth­ing less.

My colleagues spent 2021 tire­lessly expos­ing, publi­ciz­ing, and combat­ing this assault on the vote. We iden­ti­fied 34 new laws making it harder to vote in 19 states. Four­teen state legis­latures have taken steps to limit judi­cial inde­pend­ence or increase polit­ical influ­ence over courts. Our research drew wide public atten­tion and helped shape debate. We’re work­ing with allies and elec­tion offi­cials to defend free and fair elec­tions. We’ve sued to stop harsh and racially discrim­in­at­ory voting laws in Texas, and discrim­in­at­ory elect­oral maps in Ohio. We work as part of a wide and grow­ing demo­cracy move­ment.

Now, the year draws to a close on a dramatic note, with possible action by Congress to save our demo­cracy. When states are abus­ing the rights of their people, there is simply no substi­tute for strong federal action.  Congress can stop this assault on demo­cracy. It has the power, legally and consti­tu­tion­ally. Does it have the polit­ical will? 

At long last we are find­ing out. The House already has passed strong voting rights legis­la­tion. A major­ity of the Senate supports these bills. Now Senate lead­ers and Pres­id­ent Biden have said this is a top, must-pass prior­ity. Major­ity Leader Chuck Schu­mer (D-NY) announced the voting bills would be the first order of busi­ness at the begin­ning of Janu­ary. And Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said — in the very Fox News inter­view where he said that he would not support the Build Back Better bill — that voting rights is a must, and Senate rules must not get in the way. Pres­sure is build­ing, things are chan­ging by the hour, and we have a chance — but only a chance — to win action.

Make no mistake: sacred demo­cratic prin­ciples are on the line. One person, one vote. Equal rights under the law. Let’s embrace them and get back to perfect­ing our union.