Maddow: Kansas Shows Why “For the People Act” is Needed, and Has Momentum
Central to each of us having a say in the future our families will share in community with one another is a government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people. We elect officials to represent our values and it’s crucial that all Americans have their voice heard in that process. In too many parts of the country that’s not the case for all Americans. From Maricopa County in Arizona that closed 60 polling places primarily in black and brown neighborhoods in 2016, to the reduction of early voting periods in North Carolina, some politicians believe it should be harder for the people to have a voice. However, the new U.S. House’s first priority, the For The People Act (H.R. 1) provides the election and ethics reform our democracy so desperately needs.
As Rachel Maddow discussed on her show last night, one egregious example from 2018 was in Dodge City, Kansas, the state’s largest minority-majority city, made up primarily of Latinx Americans. Local Republican election officials decided to remove Dodge City’s only polling location from within city limits and put it far out of town and difficult to reach without a car, an effort to suppress Latinx voters. Those local officials were only following the model set by Kris Kobach, Kansas’s 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate, who was also serving as the Secretary of State and had risen to national prominence promoting vote suppression tactics. At the same time, one state over, all Colorado voters were able to vote by mail, take their ballot to any dropbox in the state, and even register to vote on election day.
In order to truly have a government of, by, and for the people, we need comprehensive democracy reform to include the voices of all people, not just the people traditionally in power. The For the People Act seeks to do just that.
This legislation takes many of the progressive voting policies that already work in different states and applies them federally. These policies include automatic voter registration, where you can opt-out instead of opt-in to vote; same-day voter registration; and independent redistricting commissions in each state, to end partisan gerrymandering, giving the vote back to all voters, not just small groups of hyper-partisan voters. The For the People Act, as its name suggests, serves to make government work for the people, giving power to all people, not just privileged groups, wealthy politicians, and special interests.
Even though this is the top priority of a new Democratic House, the For the People Act isn’t partisan. These policies would help all voters, making government more open, transparent, and accountable. Originally, Republicans didn’t have much to say on the act, but as it gains momentum, they are having difficulty finding sound arguments to counter it. There is a fear among establishment Republicans that the Democrats are just trying to win more elections in the future, but as hearings on the bill are starting, they are failing to find evidence to validate this fear. As the process of passing the For the People Act continues, we will likely start to see greater bipartisan support because this is a good bill that will, in practice, benefit Democrats and Republicans alike.
It is crucial that we keep the momentum going on this reform package. For instance, it is unlikely Sen. Mitch McConnell will ever allow this to be voted on in the Senate. This is the first step in a long journey the people must win. Just because it may take a while doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.