In 2021 legislative sessions there have been 425 bills proposed in forty-nine states designed to, in some measure, suppress voting. To be fair, in some of these states new laws were also enacted that allowed some expansion of voting rights, such as restoring such rights to convicted persons and requiring more accessibility to impaired voters.
In Kentucky, a good many of the expanded voting accommodations that were put in place for the 2020 general election due to the COVID pandemic were allowed to remain for future elections — due in large part to the coöperative efforts of the Republican Secretary of State Adams and Democratic Governor Beshear. And following that election, several thousand voters’ names were purged from the voting lists, mostly due to death.
It’s possible that a great many people had thought that the Jim Crow laws were a thing of the past. But it would appear that they are being reinvigorated in various forms and under different names, most often in the guise of voter security, citing unproven and disputed examples of voter fraud although virtually every study of the 2020 elections showed that they were the most secure in history and with absolutely insignificant fraud.
Jim Crow laws began showing up in state and local jurisdictions shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War and continued with added vehemence until 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. Even then, it was another four years before added provisions secured general civil liberties for all Americans.
The Voting Rights Act became law in 1965 but it was set to expire in ten years and reauthorized in 1975.
It seemed that the Act was being continually re-authorized as it was in 1992 for fifteen years and again in 2006 for 25 years — which begs the question of why this should be necessary. Why not just pass the law and make it permanent until and unless it is – or portions of it – are determined to be unconstitutional?
In 2019, a bipartisan bill (sponsored by one Democrat and one Republican) was introduced to update the Voting Rights Act to apply specifically to thirteen states which had a history of voter suppression. On December 6, 2019, the House of Representatives voted 228–187 in favor of the bill with only one Republican voting in favor. President Trump threatened to veto the bill if it was approved by the Senate.
Two acts are currently before Congress to improve voter access: the Freedom to Vote Act in the Senate and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which has passed the House and would complement the Senate act. And expansion and consolidation of voting rights are being held up in the Senate largely because of esoteric rules that prevent a simple majority of that body to pass legislation.
Now the country is undergoing massive redistricting based on the 2020 census, and this provides another opportunity for the unscrupulous to manipulate the way in which elections are carried out. One has only to look at the present Kentucky legislative districts to understand that gerrymandering is alive and well and will most likely show up again when the new map is drawn.
It is long past time in this country for Congress to pass true bipartisan laws which stipulate some simple and inviolable rules governing all elections, rules which cannot be abrogated by the machinations of local and state officials for political reasons. There is no reason why rules cannot be established that will apply equally and impartially across the country, whether it be in New York or Alabama or Arizona — rules that will guarantee that every qualified citizen over the age of eighteen has reasonable, efficient access to the voting booth.