The Future of American Elections: “For The People” or a Return to Jim Crow?
After experiencing one of the most contentious and anticipated elections in United States’ history, American Democrats now seek to revise a number of antiquated laws, emboldened by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, Senate, and White House. Congress’ voting rights bill, known as the "For The People Act", presents a number of modernised approaches to voting that would streamline the federal process by promoting online voter registration, widening accessibility, and working to prohibit voter intimidation techniques.
This bill, alongside voicing support for Washington D.C. statehood and honouring Election Day as a national holiday, outlines a number of key democratic policy ideals that would streamline the voter registration process, reduce voting restrictions in Conservative states, and end partisan gerrymandering. Ultimately, if passed, the new voting rights bill has the potential to shape modern American history by revitalising and refining the federal voting system in the name of preserving the United States’ liberal democracy.
The necessity for increased voter protection and voting accessibility became immediately apparent during the 2020 Presidential Election. During this time, the confounding variables of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement overlapped, making modern election deterrent and intimidation techniques eerily reminiscent of the American history of Jim Crow laws to deter black voters. Similarly, Republicans have recently called for identification laws pertaining to voting to be enacted; however, this inherently invalidates Americans who cannot obtain IDs, rendering them unable to vote in federal elections. This proposed legislation would seek to essentially reverse these state-by-state mandates by creating a cohesive plan to protect and preserve voting rights for majority and minority Americans.
Voting accessibility has been mentioned frequently in the past week, following Georgia’s new legislation regarding voting, and has essentially relit the flame surrounding the preservation of voters’ rights and the maintenance of American democracy through free elections. The new Georgia voting law makes absentee voting harder, limits ballot access for urban Georgians, and criminalises offering refreshments to people in poll queues. These new restrictions placed on voting seek to undermine the equality of elections and prevent the Democratic Party from the perceived “power grab” by mandating equal access to federal voting. However, Democrats argue that their aim is to make it easier to vote, regardless of party affiliation. If passed, the “For the People Act” would make some of the biggest federal changes in modern history, including setting national rules to make voting federally uniform and accessible to Americans across the country.
Despite the countless positive aspects that such a reformative bill would provide, the “For The People Act” faces an uphill battle in Congress. An incredibly partisan bill like this requires 60 votes. However, according to the Senate’s rules under a Republican filibuster, this feat seems unlikely in a 50-50 Senate split. Despite the possibility of being halted in the Senate, Democratic Representatives are optimistic that the “For The People Act” will deter the spread of voter suppression tactics in the American South and will encourage communication surrounding related discourse, especially regarding the preservation of civil rights and liberties.
In Congress, tensions are practically tangible between Democrats and Republicans; Democrats argue that federal intervention is necessary to preserve democracy while Republicans assert that it threatens the security of the voting process and revokes authority from states. While the contents of the bill seem to be representative of an 800-page Democratic “check-list”, the underlying message of the bill is to expand voting accessibility and enforce anti-corruption measures to keep American democracy alive. The American bipartisan system represents the spectrum of political ideology present within the United States, and both parties subscribe to the maintenance of the liberal world order that includes “securing the Blessings of Liberty”. Evidently, placing restrictions on voter accessibility limits the efficiency and welfare of the American democracy, directly posing a threat to the future of the US federal election system.
A bill like the “For The People Act” would streamline federal elections, provide a uniform and accessible approach to voting, discourage the influence of “big money” in politics, and implement anti-corruption measures for the fortification of democracy. The past year has been incredibly difficult for people around the globe and Americans are no exception. By holding Presidential Elections amidst a pandemic and at the tail end of a massive, summer-long civil rights demonstration, the United States was exposed for its voter intimidation techniques, lack of accessibility, and ultimately fundamental flaws in the conducting of its signature diplomatic process.
While a sweeping measure such as the “For The People Act” may seem extreme, the past year alone has demonstrated the incredible disparity of voter access and underscores the ultimate importance of a federal approach to elections. This would eliminate these inconsistencies and derogations of the American democratic process. Tiffany Muller of Let America Vote stresses the importance of passing this legislation:
“We are at a once-in-a-generation moment. We are either going to see one of the most massive rollbacks of our democracy in generations, or we have the opportunity to say: ‘No, that is not what America stands for'”.
Such a momentous piece of legislation being brought before Congress requires all Americans to stop and consider: is this the beginning of a new dawn of voter federal rights and accessibility or will voting restrictions reminiscent of Jim Crow shape future elections?