Voter suppression, a remnant of the repulsive Trump administration, is a specter, a veritable political virus, spreading from one state after another. On Monday in Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a Republican-backed bill that makes it harder to vote early, eradicating what had been a key element in Democratic campaigns. The changes were quickly approved in the House and Senate, despite opposition from Democratic legislators.
As if to give the historic “Bloody Sunday” a fresh, no less terrible designation, Georgia’s state Senate narrowly passed a Republican-back bill that would end no-excuse absentee voting, a bill that would limit absentee voting to people 65 and older, those with a physical disability and people out of town on Election Day, thereby ending legislature that paradoxically was put in place by Republicans in 2005. Other changes included a requirement of an ID for those seeking to vote via absentee.
These developments in Iowa and Georgia are exemplary of what is occurring in more than 40 states, mostly Republican-controlled legislatures, proposing restrictive voting laws with over 250 bills presented. Along with the two measures cited previously, the voter suppression moves include voter identification laws, prohibiting ex-felons from the polls and curtailing the Sunday vote, which is aimed at ending the “Souls to Polls” energized Black vote.
To counter the renewed voter suppression campaigns, President Biden, as he assembled with notables to commemorate “Bloody Sunday,” a brutal confrontation in Selma, Alabama that figured prominently in the later success of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed an executive order directing all government agencies to engage the complexities related to voting on Sunday. In addition, the order expands voter registration in contradistinction from the Republican actions, improves the access to voter information, and gives federal employees time off in order to volunteer in elections.
“Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have it counted,” Biden said on Sunday at the Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast. “If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.”
Native Americans will be pleased to learn that a component of the order creates a Native American Voting Rights Steering Committee to increase voter participation in their communities. Those living on reservations have been particularly handicapped since they possess no street address.
Last week, the passing of House Resolution 1 on party-line vote, has implications for nearly every aspect of the electoral process. The bill, which is sure to be a bitter battle in the Senate, has provisions to restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts and it addresses some of the nefarious ways wealthy donors can anonymously bankroll political causes.
In the end, we may have a renewal of states’ rights that prevents the removal of vestiges of Jim Crow.