WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 18: The U.S Capitol Building is prepared for the inaugural ceremonies for President-elect Joe Biden as American flags are placed in the ground on the National Mall on January 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. The approximately 191,500 U.S. flags will cover part of the National Mall and will represent the American people who are unable to travel to Washington, DC for the inauguration. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
By Margo Davidson
Republican politicians in Harrisburg are engaging in a power grab, actively working to suppress the vote and stop regular people from having a say. Recently my colleagues across the aisle introduced their so-called election reforms for Pennsylvania that include voter identification laws, purging legitimate voters and excessive signature verifications on mail-in ballots.
I am a Black woman in a white-male-dominated Legislature. And I am the only Black woman who has ever chaired the House committee that oversees voting laws in our state.
As chairwoman in the Democratic minority, I am continually sickened by the way in which the Republican majority repeatedly makes these voter suppression tactics seem normal, much in the way poll taxes, literacy tests and other barriers were made to seem valid leading up the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
Even after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, and still today, Black women continue to fight for fairness and equality for marginalized communities in our democracy.
Today, just 4.82 percent of state legislators are Black women (356 out of 7,383 legislators), and that needs to change.
Through the #NoDemocracyWithoutBlackWomen awareness campaign, we are striving to break all barriers to true equality in our democracy by making sure Black women are at the forefront in legislatures across the state, working to dismantle the structural systems of racism and sexism where they exist, including voting.
State legislatures are critical front lines of the policy battles we are seeing play out in this country, and are crucial to building the world we want to live in.
While Pennsylvania is my fight, Pennsylvania is not alone.
From state to state across the country, democracy is under attack. We continue to see the extent of damage Republicans can do.
They are prioritizing political parties over voters and making it harder than ever to vote by creating unnecessary restrictions and complications to voting across all formats. More than 300 bills have been introduced in 47 states, each containing provisions that would make it harder for everyday Americans to vote.
Fortunately, and in tandem with us at the federal level, U.S. House Democrats have introduced the For the People Act (H.R.1, S.1) to heal our democracy.
It is a critical reform package to get dark money out of politics, stop billionaires from buying elections, crack down on corruption, end partisan gerrymandering, protect the freedom to vote and ensure elections are safe, accurate and accessible.
The For the People Act is essential to restoring the public’s faith in our democratic institutions and ensuring everyone’s voice and vote is heard, counted and protected. These commonsense reforms would restore our democracy and benefit all Americans, whether you voted for Joe Biden, Donald Trump or a third-party candidate.
Once passed, H.R.1/S.1 would ensure our elections are accurate by securing our voting systems to prevent hacking and potential foreign and domestic threats to our elections.
It would ensure Americans in all 50 states have equal access to early voting and vote-by-mail options while also prohibiting voter suppression tactics such as voter purging and caging that are often dishonestly used to take eligible voters off the rolls. H.R.1/S.1 would work together with the John Lewis Voting Rights Act by strengthening access to the ballot box in communities of color where voting rights are under attack.
Beyond access to the ballot box, the For the People Act would shine a light on dark money in politics by requiring political groups to disclose their largest donors and adding transparency rules for online political ad spending. Washington has never been more broken: people are being told by elected leaders to doubt the security of our elections and special interests are still setting the agenda. It’s time to restore our democracy.
At a time when our country is more divided than ever, I’m grateful we have a U.S. senator such as U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., fighting to break the gridlock, make progress and save lives.
The For the People Act would prevent barriers to voting from being normalized and protect all Americans’ freedom to vote equally. Now is the time for all senators in all 50 states to join him and move this to the Senate floor so we can get big money out of politics and maintain the integrity of our elections.
Now is the moment to make the changes needed to restore our democracy.
State Rep. Margo Davidson, a Democrat, represents the Delaware County-based 164th House District. She is the ranking Democratic member of the House State Government Committee. She writes from Harrisburg.
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