An election official lays out more “I voted” stickers on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Stickers for the 2020 general election featured designs by Alaskan artist Barbara Lavallee. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

An election official lays out more “I voted” stickers on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Stickers for the 2020 general election featured designs by Alaskan artist Barbara Lavallee. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Voting rights should be enshrined, not suppressed

Please contact your senator urging passage of the For the People Act.

  • By Ketih B. Levy
  • Saturday, March 13, 2021 6:30am
  • Opinion

By Keith B. Levy

Americans voted in record numbers in the 2020 presidential election. Nearly two-thirds of eligible voters cast a ballot, according to the Pew Research Center. Most of us see this display of participatory democracy as a good thing. And yet, a substantial number of Republican state legislators are responding by increasing efforts to suppress votes, most often the votes of people of color. The For the People Act, H.R. 1, would protect voting rights of all Americans. Recent polling shows that 67 percent of voters, including a majority of Republicans, support its passage. Even so, it is widely anticipated that a minority of Republicans in the U.S. Senate will use the filibuster to kill the bill.

The Brennan Center for Justice reports that, as of mid-February 2021, 253 bills that would limit access to the ballot are pending in 43 states, including Alaska. These proposals primarily seek to do several things — No. 1, limit mail voting access; No. 2, impose stricter voter identification requirements; No. 3, slash voter registration opportunities; and No.4, enable more aggressive voter roll purges. Many of these measures would roll back procedures that made it easier to vote in 2020 during the pandemic. Pandemic or no, increasing voter turnout is good for representative democracy.

Supporters of voter suppression legislation rely on the false claim that it is necessary to prevent election fraud. But after more than 60 failed lawsuits and numerous recounts and election audits, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would have changed the result of any election in 2020.

The argument that making it more difficult to vote is necessary to prevent fraud is belied by the fact that most these measures have no connection to actual evidence of voter fraud. Ten states, including Alaska, are considering legislation to eliminate automatic voter registration. Nearly half the voter suppression bills would limit voting by mail. Eighteen states are considering imposition of stricter voter identification requirements. Yet in the tumult following the 2020 election, no evidence of fraud was produced to support the claim that any of these stricter requirements are necessary.

Separate from the fraud argument, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, opposes the For the People Act in part because it “would federalize the election process, upending our longstanding rules allowing states to decide the methods through which they choose their own representatives.” But the question is, to what extent may a state suppress ballot access before the federal government should step in? And the question becomes more urgent when voter suppression falls to a greater degree on people of color. The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed more than 55 years ago to prevent states from denying access to the ballot on the basis of race. Before its enactment, states routinely adopted measures that denied ballot access to people of color. Common tactics that were outlawed under the Voting Rights act included the imposition of poll taxes and literacy tests. The tactics being used today are different, but have the same discriminatory effect.

States should be able to decide the methods through which they will choose their representatives. But no one has the right to disenfranchise any voter, particularly on the basis of race. All of us should be doing everything possible to make it easier for all eligible voters to cast a ballot, not more difficult. The For the People Act would do just that. Please contact your senator urging passage of the For the People Act.

• Keith B. Levy is a Juneau resident and a retired Alaska District Court Judge.

More in Opinion

Web
Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Disappointed by JAHC director’s opposition to Ship-Free Saturdays

As a member of the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, I was… Continue reading

Juneau residents pack a room at the downtown public library for a June 6 meeting of Eaglecrest Ski Area’s board of directors. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: Eaglecrest unplugged

Serving on a board or commission is hard work and that service… Continue reading

Downtown Juneau in late October of 2022. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Mitigating the loss of tax revenue from cruise ship free Saturdays

The cruise ship free Saturday initiative presents us with a modified lesson… Continue reading

Leaders at Bartlett Regional Hospital listen to comments from residents during a forum Monday about proposed cuts to some services. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
My Turn: Bartlett board faces challenges

Once upon a time, Alaska’s capital had a well-run municipal hospital, but… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: SEARHC’s goals seem likely to limit, rather than expand, health options in Juneau

Max Mertz’s comments at the Bartlett Regional Hospital public forum about SEARHC’s… Continue reading

Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower after he was found guilty of all counts in his criminal trial in New York on May 30. (Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)
Opinion: Trump’s new fixers

“Alaska Republicans back Trump after historic conviction in hush money case,” the… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Allow locals to have their town back once a week during the summer

Perhaps Nate Vallier shrugs when he sees eagles and bears (My Turn,… Continue reading

Juneau School District administrators and board members listen to a presentation about the district’s multi-million deficit during a Jan. 9 meeting. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: School board recall not a cure for ‘failure to thrive’

Decline happens over time. Kinda like the way we gain weight and… Continue reading

Two skiers settle into a lift chair as they pass trees with fresh snow at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Dec. 20, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: Eaglecrest Ski Area attempting to do too much without sensible leadership

Ever wonder what the 50-year-old clearcut above the beginner slopes at Eaglecrest… Continue reading

A Carnival cruise ship is berthed Juneau’s cruise ship docks during the summer of 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Ignoring the consequences of ship-free Saturdays?

Backers of a cruise initiative to block large cruise ships from docking… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Don’t believe doom-and-gloom predictions for ship-free Saturdays

As a 54-year resident of Juneau I have seen the summer cruise… Continue reading