Popular sentiment for election reform continues to grow, and lawmakers in Washington are finally listening. On the first day of the new Congress, the House introduced its first bill. Its purpose is to protect the voices of all voters in the political process and restore trust in government. Given the troubling injuries to our democracy inflicted by several recent Supreme Court decisions, such legislative solutions have become sorely needed. These Supreme Court decisions over the years have chipped away at key safeguards, including the Voting Rights Act and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, both put in place to protect the integrity of our elections. This regressive trend has led to increased voter suppression all across the country and unprecedented dark money in campaigns. Together, they contribute to a sense that American democracy no longer functions.
The assaults on voting rights have only increased since the Voting Rights Act was stripped of its lynchpin in the Supreme Court decision Shelby County versus Eric Holder in 2013. The Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965, was the definitive turning point for voting rights in the United States and its most effective mechanism was preclearance, which required states with a history of racial discrimination in voting to submit for approval any proposed voting change with the Justice Department or a federal court.
Without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, states have imposed burdensome voting policies. In the 2018 midterms, states like Georgia and Arizona rejected an alarming number of absentee ballots, for reasons as trivial as forgetting to write their birth year on their ballot envelope or poor penmanship. If we had not taken action in these states, thousands of ballots would have gone uncounted. Meanwhile, many voters appeared at the polls only to discover that their names were not on the voter rolls.
Last year, I argued Jon Husted versus Randolph before the Supreme Court. I said Ohio election officials should not be permitted to remove voters from their registration rolls simply for infrequent voting and failing to respond to a single notice in the mail. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruled against us. This creates real danger that other states will pursue extreme purging practices. Five other states in addition to Ohio use infrequent voting as a trigger for deregistration from their rolls. These states are Georgia, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.