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Opinion: The Risks of Not Passing the For the People Act

For the People
Protesters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., in July 2021. Pennsylvania Capital-Star photo by Ariana Figueroa.

By Daniel Golombek and Charlie Cooper

The writers are, respectively, president of the Baltimore County Progressive Democrats Club; and president of Get Money Out-Maryland and the lead organizer of For the People – Maryland.

“A republic, if you can keep it …” And we are trying, Mr. Franklin, we are trying.

Our organizations and the rest of the members of For the People – Maryland, representing more than 100,000 citizens across the state, are working tirelessly to prohibit gerrymandering, stop voter suppression and make it more difficult for billionaires to buy our elections.

A republic should have and preserve political equality, so its citizens freely and easily elect their representatives – people that are like them, that live where they do, and share their aspirations for them, their children, their environment and their communities.

But Mr. Franklin, it turns out that the same faction that throughout our history staged a rebellion against the United States, wrote Jim Crow constitutions, closed their schools and pools rather than have their children educated and swimming with their African-American neighbors, launched the first deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol since the British in 1814.

This is the same faction that today is enacting laws everywhere they can to make it more difficult for people of color to vote and easier for themselves to overturn the results of elections they lose. And we are here still working at the grassroots to save our republic, not recessing, not stopping, still calling, still writing, still marching.

The 2020 census results show a country that is more diverse and more urban. In states that increased their congressional delegation, the faction is scheming to prevent minority voters (those that made those increases possible, in fact) to be represented along the new racial and ethnic diversity their states now have.

Here is a clear example: Texas would not be getting two more seats in the House of Representatives but for the addition of more than 2 million residents of Hispanic ethnicity. Yet, with partisan gerrymandering, Texas will be free to reduce Hispanic representation in Congress.

The For the People Act would ban this type of brazen restructuring of our democracy to favor partisan politicians. 

To keep our republic, to make a more perfect union, we need the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. We do not need districts drawn along pure political allegiance lines that look like an abstract painting. We need districts determined by a truly nonpartisan commission, at arm’s length from the state assemblies and governors.

We need to elect our leaders, not the other way around. We need candidates that represent the interest of the people, not of their big money donors. We simply need the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to be the law of the land.  

It is this simple – the majority of Americans in poll after poll support the provisions of these acts, that were voted by the House of Representatives now four times and for the first time allowed to be introduced in the U.S. Senate. It could be that simple if it were not for the Senate rule that 60 votes are needed to consider legislation.

What happens in the next couple of months will have severe consequences for our republic, not only for the next 10 years until a new census and new districts will be drawn; it will erode political equality and exacerbate partisan division for the foreseeable future.

It is this simple, Mr. Franklin. In Maryland, our two senators have repeatedly told us that they favor this legislation and the elimination of the filibuster. We expect that they will spend their recess time talking with their colleagues and with President Biden and convincing them that the time is short, and the risks are far too great to ignore.

The filibuster rule must be changed so that laws that enforce political equality in federal elections can pass by simple majority. The recess should be cut short, and the Senate should resume the business of preserving our republic.


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Opinion: The Risks of Not Passing the For the People Act