Tag Archives: Voting rights

Stacey Abrams: Our democracy faced a near-death experience. Here’s how to revive it.

Pro-Trump rioters storm the U.S. Capitol to contest the certification of the presidential election on Jan. 6. (Ahmed Gaber/Reuters) (Ahmed Gaber/Reuters)
The Washington Post, Opinion by Stacey Abrams, Feb. 7, 2021

Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, is a former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives and founder of the group Fair Fight.

The violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, coupled with ongoing threats to election officials, election workers and lawmakers at all levels, represent unprecedented attacks on the foundations of our democracy. Certainly, President Donald Trump and others in his party who inspired the attacks must be held accountable through all available means. But accountability alone will not be nearly enough.

Only meaningful reforms can undo the damage done — and establish a government that is truly representative of the people. The next real test of our democracy comes now.

Make no mistake: Democracy may have survived this year, but President Biden and Vice President Harris were elected despite, not thanks to, weakened electoral systems. Together with the Democratic Congress, they now have the opportunity to implement reforms that reaffirm our nation’s promises that our country represents and works for everyone. We as Democrats must act before it is too late.

Our democratic system faces extraordinary threats today because of sustained attacks from Republican leaders who throw up roadblocks to voting and, among the worst actors, stoke the flames of white supremacy and hyper-nationalism to cling to power. There can be no clearer example than the covid-19 pandemic. The deaths of more than 450,000 people in the richest country in the world are symptomatic of a democracy in crisis and a political system that rewards cronyism over competence. Despite strong public support for the Centers for Disease Control’s work, the Affordable Care Act, and other economic justice and safety-net policies that could save lives, millions nevertheless continue to contract the disease without adequate access to health care.

No thinking person can deny that the communities of color disproportionately suffering and dying from this pandemic are also the people whose votes — and ability to hold failed leaders accountable — have been continuously suppressed.

The pandemic has been a collision of tragedy and corroded institutions, and the challenge is in how we respond. We can either engage in collective amnesia about what we have just lived through, and leave an unaccountable government in place, or we can rise to meet this moment by fixing the broken social compact. Defeating Trump was not enough. Meaningful progress on health care, racial justice and the economy requires aggressive action on voting rights, partisan gerrymandering and campaign finance.

One of the first steps must be an overhaul of the Senate filibuster, which has long been wielded as a cudgel against the needs of millions who struggle. Today, the parliamentary trick creates a more sinister threat to our nation: the ability of a minority of senators, who represent 41.5 million fewer people than the Senate majority, to block progress favored by most Americans.

Democrats in Congress must fully embrace their mandate to fast-track democracy reforms that give voters a fair fight, rather than allowing undemocratic systems to be used as tools and excuses to perpetuate that same system. This is a moment of both historic imperative and, with unified Democratic control of the White House and Congress, historic opportunity.

The agenda to restore democracy also includes passing the For the People Act to protect and expand voting rights, fight gerrymandering and reduce the influence of money in politics; the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore the full protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act; and the Protecting Our Democracy Act to constrain the corruption of future presidents who deem themselves above the law. These landmark bills have broad-based support, and would have passed long ago were it not for obstructionist leaders who fear losing their own influence if the American people have more power of their own.

Further, fixing our democracy requires we finally allow our fellow Americans in D.C. and Puerto Rico, the vast majority of whom are people of color, to have full access to our democracy. That means D.C. statehood and binding self-determination for Puerto Rico. In the District, as white extremist mobs destroyed the Capitol, murdered a police officer, and threatened the lives of elected officials and residents, Washingtonians were left defenseless because D.C. is not a state and its chief executive had no authority to deploy the National Guard.

Time is short. The forces standing against a democracy agenda seek to preserve and expand paths to power by shrinking the voting pool rather than winning voters over. In reaction to the historic turnout of 2020 and Democratic victories in places such as Georgia, already this year more than 100 bills have been put forward in state legislatures seeking to restrict voting access. Those efforts will not end without a fight.

We don’t know how many chances we will get to reverse our democracy’s near-death experience. We must not waste this one. We must go big — the future of democracy demands it.

Voting by people of color is up, but so are barriers built by Republicans

Americans across the country still face significant barriers when attempting to vote. It’s time Republicans come to terms with that.

Eric H. Holder Jr. and Stacey Abrams
USA Today, by Stacey Abrams and Eric H. Holder Jr., June 15, 2020

At the core of our American democracy is the belief that the people should elect the leaders who give voice to their values and ambitions. The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, yet over the past decade, partisanship has overtaken patriotism in the political process. Just last month, the House of Representatives passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect access to the ballot. For decades, the Voting Rights Act received bipartisan reauthorization in Congress, but this bill received just a single Republican vote.

At the state level, Republicans have passed a raft of laws designed to block, deflect and deny access to the ballot. Since 2010, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 25 states have put heightened voting restrictions in place, almost entirely guided by Republican officials.

These efforts were aided by gerrymandering of state legislatures in 2011 that locked in their power and a disastrous Supreme Court decision in Shelby County, Alabama, in 2013 that gutted federal protections for minority voters. Yet the acute attention from Congress and others to the scourge of voter suppression — the intent and effect of these new voting restrictions — has led to cries of innocence and feigned outrage.

Republicans are gaslighting voters

Recently, Republicans have offered a new argument to deny widespread voter suppression and misdirect the public about their actions. They claim that because high numbers of voters of color participated in the 2018 election, voter suppression could not possibly have occurred.

Employing this level of purposefully lazy gaslighting of voters who were deprived of their constitutional rights is shocking but not surprising, given that it comes from a political party whose strategy for victory relies so heavily on making voting more difficult.

In Covington, Kentucky, on Nov. 6, 2018.
In Covington, Kentucky, on Nov. 6, 2018. Meg Vogel/The Cincinnati Enquirer Via The USA TODAY Network

Put simply, an increase in participation does not negate the fact that challenges can also increase. Indeed, in elections in the past 20 years, the obstacles have grown more complex and harmful, and the injuries are real. While more voters of color successfully navigated impediments to registration and ballot access in 2018, we cannot blithely ignore the tens of thousands of others silenced by purgesexact match schemes and closed precincts.

Republicans are rigging elections to win:They’re anti-voter and anti-democracy

Turnout reached the highest level among voters of color in 2018 than in any previous midterm election in memory. They turned out in droves because they were seen, heard and inspired. In Georgia, for example, an analysis by the Stacey Abrams gubernatorial campaign showed that 1.2 million black voters cast ballots for the Democratic ticket — compared with 1.15 million voters of all races who had supported it four years earlier.

Even so, those numbers do not reflect the gauntlet of problems faced by voters, too many of whom were rejected or denied before having their ballots counted. Equally worrisome and worthy of investigation are the additional eligible voters who would have had their voices heard if only there were fewer obstacles.

High barriers and high participation

Across the country, the perverse position Republicans have taken is to use higher participation rates among voters of color to claim that voter suppression does not exist. Worse, some go so far as to take credit for record turnout. In many cases, higher turnout by voters of color led to lines of four hours or more due to too few machines, faulty poll books, a lack of power cordspoorly trained election workers and more. Some overcame these challenges and had their votes counted, but that does not erase the obstacles.

The fact that people of color voted in droves in 2018 is proof that voter turnout and voter suppression can operate independently but also in relation to one another. Research shows that those most aware of suppression activities may employ anger at the partisan nature of disenfranchisement as a motivating force and take extraordinary steps to overwhelm its effect by amplifying participation. Increases in voter turnout are also a very real response to the threat of voter suppression.

Before 2020:Upgrade voting systems, restore Voting Rights Act, end voter suppression

Still, as Americans, we must not elide the real effect of these actions. The denial of even a single voter’s right to be heard should concern all of us. If even one eligible voter’s name is missing from the poll book, if even one parent must leave a long line to pick up a child from school, if even one voter’s registration is held up because of a so-called unusual name, our elections are not truly free and fair.

We must continue to speak the truth and hold government officials accountable until every eligible voter’s voice can be heard. If Republicans are not outraged by voter suppression, if they are only are incensed that their actions have been called out, then that raises a question Americans should ask themselves: Why are Republicans afraid of free and fair elections?


Stacey Abrams, a former Democratic leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, was the first African American woman nominee of a major party for governor and is the founder of Fair Fight and Fair Count. Eric H. Holder Jr., chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, was U.S. attorney general for six years during the Obama administration, the first African American to hold that position. Follow them on Twitter: @staceyabrams and @EricHolder