Opinions

Alaska’s U.S. senators should support voting bills

The League of Women Voters of Alaska strongly supports the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act. Both of these bills focus on the rights of eligible citizens to vote with equal access to the voting process. These bills call for a basic voting process that is followed by all states.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act revises the earlier 1965 Voting Rights Act. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Shelby vs. Holder (2013) removed the preclearance process. The preclearance process required the DOJ to review any new voting laws from a state with a history of voter suppression. Since the Shelby decision canceled preclearance, many states have tried to suppress the vote in a variety of ways. After the 2020 election, many states, according to the Brennan Center, have introduced 265 bills that would allow states to decide which groups should have an easier time voting than other groups.

The second voting rights bill is the For the People Act. It calls for several voting processes that are already available to Alaskans: automatic registration (available through the Permanent Fund dividend application), use of paper ballots counted by hand or optical scanner, counting votes cast out of assigned precincts, 15 days minimum of early voting, and equitable management of polling places to reduce long lines and wait times. One item that is included in this bill is the use of independent redistricting committees; this is a practice that Alaska does not follow, unfortunately, resulting in lawsuits challenging most of our redistricting efforts. In addition to these positive democracy positions, there are many other sections of this bill that increase the strength of voting rights for voters in all states.

Some who oppose this bill claim that the federal government is attempting to eliminate states’ rights concerning elections. Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution says this: “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations.” With 265 bills pending to alter elections, this may be that time. In addition, the 15th Amendment states that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” and “The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” These statements clearly prove that the federal government has the right to legislate in order to make the voting process equitable for all citizens.

Alaskans are lucky to have a strong election process, but other states do not. If we value our democracy, we should wish the same for all eligible citizens. Both bills are now in the Senate. Please let your senators know how important these bills are.

Judy Andree serves as president of the League of Women Voters of Alaska. She lives in Juneau.

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