The sweeping democracy reform agenda bill known as HR1, For The People Act, is legislation that includes a comprehensive package of democracy reforms scheduled for 2019. Parts of the bill include expanding automatic voter registration and ensuring fair redistricting processes by ending partisan gerrymandering. These issues were addressed in the Opinion Page on Jan. 20 and Jan. 23 respectively. Today the practice of outlawing voter purging and restoring the Voting Rights Act is addressed.
According to the LWV-US site the practice of keeping voting rolls current must not be used to disenfranchise otherwise eligible voters. As LWV has asserted many times, no eligible voter should find themselves at a polling place on Election Day unable to vote because politicians illegally removed their name from the voter roll. This practice is undemocratic and should be outlawed once and for all. House of Representatives, HR1 bill does this.
In September 2015 our former Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, proposed a new regulation that would allow his office to purge more than 35,000 incomplete voter registration applications. Most of these were held in suspense because the voters had not yet provided proof of U.S. citizenship (birth certificate or passport), and their registration applications were older than 90 days. This affected many college students, the elderly, people of color and the underprivileged.
You might remember that a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas in February 2016, on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Kansas, and individual Kansans. The case was brought and won by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Kansas. By June 2018 U.S. District Chief Judge, Julie A. Robinson, struck down Kansas’ documentary proof-of-citizenship law, which disenfranchised thousands of eligible voters. The judge found that the law violates the National Voter Registration Act and the U.S. Constitution.
At trial, the court carefully and thoroughly reviewed evidence from Mr. Kobach spanning two decades and found that there was virtually nothing to support his claims of rampant voter fraud. According to the ACLU website, Mr. Kobach could only identify 39 instances where noncitizens successfully registered between 1999 and the present day.
The Brennen Center for Justice web site noted that voter purges appear to be on the rise in states with a history of racial discrimination. This increase coincides with a 2013 Supreme Court decision which struck down a part of the original Voting Rights Act of 1965. That portion required nine states, with a history of racial discrimination to obtain federal approval when altering their election laws. Those states including Alabama, Virginia, and South Carolina had been required to run changes in such policies by the Justice Department, a practice known as federal preclearance.
The Voting Rights Act was a remarkable accomplishment, ushering in the promise of real political equality after centuries of abuse. Restoring and strengthening its protections is crucial to ensuring our elections remain free, fair, and accessible for all Americans.
If you agree that these changes are needed, please, contact your federal House of Representative and ask them to vote Yes for HR1. People in District 1 can call representative, Dr. Roger Marshall, at 202-225-2715 and his staff will answer.
Next week’s opinion will be a recap of the important components in the HR1 bill.