GOP voting restrictions don’t pass ‘my grandma’ test. Luckily, Washington state does

• Jun 11, 2021

One of the great honors I’ve had as a representative was getting to serve with one of my heroes, John Lewis.

Prior to his passing, I joined Mr. Lewis in Selma, Alabama, for a Civil Rights Pilgrimage. We walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge where, in 1965, he was beaten and tear gassed, along with other civil rights activists, as they advocated for an essential American right – the right to vote.

Today, over 56 years later, the march for the right to vote isn’t done. Unfortunately, it is under attack.

I’m proud that Washington state has made progress on voting rights. But even here, some lawmakers have proposed erecting new barriers for voters.

Luckily, these measures have been defeated. In fact, Washington is leading the way on voter access – and recently restored voting rights for people convicted of a felony who have served their time.

Elsewhere, we haven’t seen such progress. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, Republican leaders in some states balked at expanding vote-by-mail – spouting unfounded conspiracy theories that doing so would lead to wide-scale fraud.

Clearly, they missed the reassurances by Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman – a Republican – who pointed out that our system has “seen a very low incidence of any kind of voter fraud.”

Elsewhere, jurisdictions with histories of discrimination are creating new barriers to voting: closing polling places, removing ballot drop boxes, purging voters from voting rolls and shortening early voting opportunities.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, more than 385 new laws have been proposed in 48 states to limit mail-in voting, early in-person and Election Day voting.

When Congress took up legislation to defend voting rights, I heard Republican colleagues suggest that the proposals in states like Georgia, Florida and Texas were somehow good ideas. But these proposals fail the “my grandma” test.

My grandmother became a United States citizen at 87 years old. She lived to nearly 109. For 22 years, she was one of the proudest Americans I knew. She was an active participant in our democracy. She was a voter.

Let’s think about some of these proposals that we’re seeing in some states.

Take voter identification (ID) laws. At 90+ years old, my grandma didn’t have a passport or a driver’s license. A photo ID law would’ve required her to purchase an ID card from the state. In our state, that costs $54.

That’s a “poll tax.” It would require a voter to pay to participate in our democracy. That fails the “my grandma” test.

We’ve seen proposals in Georgia and Texas to limit polling places, end early voting, and prohibit those in line from even being given water or snacks while they wait.

Forcing folks to stand in long lines for hours fails the “my grandma” test – not to mention what it means for voters unable to take time off work.

These new measures wouldn’t work for my grandma. And they don’t work for communities of color and others who would be kept from participating in the process.

In fact, the Brennan Center found that Georgia’s new laws “will disproportionately hurt Black voters.” President Joe Biden rightly called it “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.”

Congress should protect the rights of every American citizen to participate in our democracy. And it should act before more voter suppression laws are implemented.

That’s why I proudly sponsored HR 1 – the For the People Act - to improve voter access and end the dominance of big money in the political process. One hundred days ago today, the House passed this bill. The Senate should, too.

Congress should also pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to put the teeth back into the Voting Rights Act and ensure equal access to the ballot box for every American.

Mr. Lewis famously said, “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.”

What is happening across this nation to disenfranchise voters is not right, is not fair, and is not just. Congress must take action, for the sake of our democracy.


You can read the full article by Derek Kilmer here.

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Derek Kilmer

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