By: Jodi Lasher, Pennsylvania delegation
As many of you know, voter suppression is an issue that has begun to run rampant across America. From gerrymandering to strict election rules that disproportionately target the minority vote, it is starting to seem increasingly clear that a fair vote is sinking on the priority list for some politicians. It has been something of a hot topic on the mountain this week, too. Several delegates here this week have incredible proposals voicing their ideas on voter suppression. Ryan Gaire of the New York delegation has created one of these proposals and has agreed to share some of his thoughts. The following will be a very abbreviated retelling of the proposal, so it would be a great idea to dive into this proposal and others found in the proposal book. That said, Ryan gave some great insight into the issue. Let’s hear what he has to say!
Delegate Gaire’s proposal truly illustrates his passion for keeping this nation a democracy in which all people have ample opportunity to cast their vote. It is entitled, “To Protect and Expand Voting Rights Nationwide”. To paraphrase, Ryan shows a strong distaste for the many examples of voter suppression that have reared their heads in our country. His proposal justification states, “In the wake of the 2020 presidential and other federal elections, a nationwide movement to enhance voting restrictions has been initiated by lawmakers in 49 states, with 33 bills having 1915 already passed across 19 states that inhibit the right to vote.” While writing, Ryan drew inspiration from his interest in elections and voting, and his outrage over legislation being passed that purposefully diminishes the power of the people’s vote.
He defines voter suppression as, “a movement to try and prevent citizens of our country from casting their vote, with this movement disproportionately affecting Black and poor people.” It presents itself in the following ways: The tightening of voter ID laws is said to be for the purpose of controlling votes made under false IDs, but in reality, it harms those without the time or money to obtain new identification. Also, limitations being placed on the availability of, and who can use, mail-in ballots do not, in fact, diminish voter fraud. The real goal of these limitations is to make it harder for people who, for whatever reason, cannot make it to the polls. In addition, purging voter rolls is done under the guise of removing incorrect voter information, however, the technology used to do this is often faulty. Ryan’s proposal aims to alleviate these issues by making registering to vote much more accessible. It does this by allowing same-day voter registration as well as same-day voting. This allows people to make their voices heard without having to take multiple days off work to register to vote and cast the vote on separate days. In addition, the proposal provides for what is called automatic voter registration. This makes it possible for people to register to vote at other government agencies that may be more accessible (such as DMVs). Finally, the proposal would make the voter registration question on government documents to be opt-out, which means if the voter misses the question, they will still be eligible to vote.
As can be seen, voter suppression is entirely undemocratic, and it is a problem that needs to be solved immediately. Some parting words from Ryan are as follows:
“Voter suppression is one of the greatest issues that plagues our country today… Policies like those mentioned in my proposal will stem that tide somewhat, but many more need to be passed in order to truly solve this issue entirely. We need to urge our lawmakers and representatives to abolish the filibuster and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the For the People Act, and other legislation as well.”
In conclusion, many of us can agree that voter suppression is a flagrant breach of democracy, and policies like those previously mentioned are the minimum needed to stop it. Thank you to Ryan Gaire for this great information. Again, all of you on the mountain are highly encouraged to dig deeper into your research, knowledge, and passion about the issue of voter suppression. Resources lie right in your proposal book: proposal numbers 36 (by Ava Maroulis of Arizona), 146 (Carlo Andanar, Maryland), 185 (by Krisha Ramani of Michigan), and 205 (Katie Taffe, Minnesota) are great places to start. Knowledge is power, and as the next generation of voters, we’ll need all we can get. Let’s all learn our voting rights inside and out, and fight for them to be protected.