Op-Ed: Voting Rights Should Be Treated Like Our Nation’s Critical Infrastructure
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The building blocks of a society rely on a strong foundation. Like the crumbling infrastructure of our roads and bridges, we are watching the state of our democracy erode as well. Black Americans and communities of color are bearing the brunt of this burden. This summer, Senate Republicans refused to protect the foundation of our democracy by stalling any momentum around S.1. – For The People Act. Now, as the Senate negotiates a $3.2 trillion infrastructure package, it is critical that they recognize the need for investment in our electoral infrastructure as well.

The 2020 election prompted the largest voter turnout in the 21st century. In response to expanded participation, Republican state legislatures, governors, secretaries of state, and partisan election “experts” are working overtime to silence and sideline people of color from participating in our own democracy.

Working in a coordinated fashion, over 400 voter suppression bills have been introduced across the country, all based on a lie that has been thrown out of our courts and debunked by intelligence agencies. While legislation is moving at a lightning-fast pace in state capitals to add hurdles to voting, Washington DC is frozen in place when it comes to election reform. As we’re seeing in the Senate, roads and bridges— not the stability of our democracy— elicit bipartisan cooperation.

President Biden said there is a national imperative to ensure voting rights stay free and fair for everyone. But that imperative must include the political will to reform Senate rules, like the filibuster, when they become a stumbling block to an inclusive democracy.  Without reforming the filibuster, Senate Democrats voluntarily abdicate the power given to them by voters in 2020 and allow their Republican colleagues to block any advancements on major voting rights protections at the national level. 

Suppose we continue down this road of allowing individual states to decide arbitrary hurdles to access the polls and cut back on methods that increase voter turnout. Just as roads have been crumbling, water pipes corroding, and housing being destroyed by climate change, voting rights require a crucial investment for our society to grow and thrive, together. A building is only as strong as its foundation and the foundation that is our democracy is fragmenting into 50 pieces. 

The urgency of this moment cannot be overstated. Each of us has a role to play in moving our members of Congress to do what is in the best interest of future generations. Right now, our volunteers and canvas teams are reaching out to Black voters across the country having virtual house parties, going door-to-door, and calling friends and family to urge our community to exercise our full rights as citizens and demand that the Senate pass the For The People Act and expedite the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. You can join us in this collective community effort by calling and writing to your senators, regardless of party, and telling them that we demand the freedom to vote.

We sit at the crossroads of American history–and Congress must choose the direction that advances us toward a more perfect union. We are witnessing the intentional erosion of our democracy and the dismantling of our most sacred right–the right to vote. In order to build a stronger country, economically, socially, and politically, Congress must rise to meet this moment because we are running out of time. 

Adrianne Shropshire serves as the executive director of BlackPAC and the affiliated nonpartisan Black Progressive Action Coalition. Follow Adrianne on Twitter at @adrianneshrop and on Facebook. Step up and follow BlackPAC @VoteBlackPAC  and BPAC @BlackProgAction on Twitter and on Facebook.