As U.S. Opens International Democracy Summit, We Must Get Our Own House in Order

Statement of Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause President

As President Biden convenes his international Summit for Democracy this week, he faces a crisis of democracy here at home. Bolstering international democracy is critically important, but we must also get our own house in order. Our crisis did not begin with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, nor did it end there.  Parroting Donald Trump’s Big Lie and aided and abetted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act under Chief Justice John Roberts, GOP-controlled legislatures across the country have ushered in a new Jim Crow era.

Americans expect and deserve elected representatives who reflect the will of the people, but the anti-voter laws and outrageous gerrymanders being passed around the country today are designed to silence the voices of millions of citizens often because of their race, their background, or their zip code. Just as it took federal legislation like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to curb the racist voter suppression of the original Jim Crow era, it will once again take federal legislation to stop current efforts by state legislatures to dictate who votes and who doesn’t vote and whether those votes that are cast even have a chance to impact an election. As Justice Kagan wrote in her dissent in Rucho v. Common Cause, gerrymanders determine who has “the right to participate equally in the political process, to join with others to advance political beliefs, and to choose their political representatives.”

It is critically important for our future as a democracy that the Senate pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Those bills can undo the damage done to millions of Americans’ ability to cast a ballot and reverse the gerrymanders that render too many votes meaningless by drawing district lines that predetermine election outcomes.

The threat to democracy as we know it is very real and the world has taken notice. Last month, an international think tank placed the United States on its list of “backsliding democracies” for the first time. The United States has long been a beacon for democracy in the world, but that light is growing dimmer by the day as Americans are deliberately stripped of their voices in our democracy by partisan legislators bent on winning at any cost.

We applaud President Biden following through on his commitment to hold a democracy summit, but we strongly urge him to use his bully pulpit to help ensure that the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are passed into law. Time is short and we must pass these reforms to protect the right of every American to vote. If we do not, this may be the last Summit for Democracy that our nation hosts.