The Mouse-jority Leader agreed with the Squeaker
To gather the brightest on Capitol Hill
To figure out how they could rescue this bill.
House Mouse, Senate Mouse
written by Peter W. Barnes
illustrated by Cheryl Shaw Barnes
Little Patriot Press, 2012
When I thought I would not be home on Election Day a few years ago, I early-voted. I had to travel a little farther, but my county Board of Elections proved efficient. The poll workers were courteous and knew how to do their jobs. I felt secure that my vote would be counted. I have early-voted since then, but prefer to vote in person.
That changed last May. I did not vote early in our Primary and I did not request an absentee ballot. I planned to be home and wanted to vote in person, until I didn’t. COVID-19 was ramping up. The governor decided at the last minute to close the polls and allow any registered voter to vote by mail in the Primary election. That’s what I did. I felt pretty sure my vote would be counted.
I planned to vote absentee for the 2020 November General Election. In Ohio, we have a two-step process. As soon as I could, I requested my application for an absentee ballot. I completed and mailed back the application on the day I received it. My ballot came, I filled it in, and drove it back to the Board of Elections. (We know what the US Postal Service was like by then.) I put it in the dedicated drop box. Ohio’s Board of Elections has a page on its website that tracks when your ballot was received, when it was processed, and when it was counted. I checked back often and was delighted when I saw a check in the “counted” box.
The process was not without controversy. How many drop-boxes should be permitted in each county? Where should they be placed? What would happen to the huge backlog of ballots being mailed to citizens and mailed-in ballots being returned, due to lack of foresight and mismanagement (the nicest way I can say it) starting at the highest levels of the Post Office? You know. You were there, too.
What about voter fraud?
Well what *about* that? For all intents and purposes, there just isn’t any. It doesn’t matter who’s using the system, who’s accusing, or who’s scrutinizing. From the BBC to the US Department of Justice, it’s been determined that voter fraud is about as common as a snowflake in August. Yes, it happens, but it’s very rare.
To fix this non-existent problem, President Biden signed an Executive Order to “promote voting access and allow all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy.”
John Sarbanes, a Representative from Maryland, introduced the "For the People Act" (HB 1) on January 4, 2021. It passed on March 3. Some senators are crying "foul." It is sitting now in the Senate, languishing.
The For the People Act is really a bill. A bill is legislation that has been formally introduced in the House (HB) or the Senate (SB). The numbers are consecutive beginning at the start of the new Congressional session. An Act has passed both houses of Congress and either been approved by the President or passed by Congress over his veto.
According to https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/117/hr1/text/eh, the purpose of the bill is [t]o expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy… You can access the text of the bill at the above website.
In 2019, a bill of the same name sought to correct damage that was done by the Supreme Court’s decision of Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. In short, Shelby County, Alabama, sued US Attorney General Eric Holder over the part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required certain states and local governments to obtain federal pre-clearance before making any changes to their voting laws or practices. These certain states and local governments were subject to a formula to investigate their histories of discrimination in voting.
Shelby County, argued that the county’s environment was "totally different" in 2013, than when Section 5 was first enacted in 1965. Which was true. Since 1965, more voters were registered and voted. A more diverse slate of officials was elected.
After the Shelby decision, nearly 1,000 U.S. polling places closed, many of them in predominantly African-American counties.
In her dissent of Shelby, Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated that “[t]hrowing out pre-clearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
The 2019 bill passed the House along Party lines but languished in the Senate. This year, with a Democratic Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, the 2021 version of the bill may be brought to the floor. It might be discussed and voted on. It might even move on to the President’s desk. But it is highly unlikely.
Apart from setting the date for a Federal Election, each state has lots of leeway in the governance of the polls. Some of the opposition to HB 1 claims Federal over-reach into States’ Rights in determining how accessible the whole process of voting should be.
According to the Washington Post, at least 250 new laws have been proposed in 43 states. They would limit mail, early in-person, and Election Day voting. These restrictions could affect tens of millions of Americans. Not surprisingly, these are states run by Republican lawmakers.
The opposing Republican Senators want to limit hours and days of early voting, make the process of voting by mail cumbersome, require photo IDs at polling locations. All those proposals restrict access for people with limited mobility, jobs with no paid time off to vote on a typical workday (Tuesday), family caregivers and others.
Republicans deny the bills are aimed at suppressing turnout. They say the bills are essential to improve public confidence in the integrity of elections.
But voter fraud is so rare as to be non-existent. So what are they really saying?
The wheels of government turn slowly. Maybe that’s a good thing.
-—stay curious! (and Think Spring!)