We can repair our democracy and this legislation is the place to start

North Carolina can rectify the hateful legacy behind last month’s insurrection.

Make no mistake: when an armed mob stormed the halls of Congress hellbent on holding our government hostage and preventing the certification of the 2020 election, it was more than conspiracy theories, the now-former president’s white supremacist rhetoric, or denial of facts that fueled the insurrection.

That literal assault on a free and fair election has roots that run far deeper than the most recent election. For the length of our country’s history, Black, Brown, and Indigenous Americans in states like ours have endured endless attacks on their access to the ballot and all that comes with it. Over the years, these have taken the forms of both physical violence and purportedly neutral lawmaking. North Carolina’s history — from the 1898 Wilmington coup to the Jim Crow era to the not literally violent but still insidious gerrymandering and voter suppression of recent years — illustrates both.

All of the above are flashing warning signs for the health of our political system — and with it, everything the public seeks to accomplish through it.

In 2021, our elected officials have a chance to do something about that. One of the first orders of business of a newly-elected Congress must be to advance the U.S. House’s H.R.1, and its new companion in the Senate, S.1, dubbed the “For the People” Acts.

Called “the most significant democracy reform bill in a generation” when it was first proposed in 2019, this historic legislation now circulating both Congressional chambers, would eliminate or reduce many of the barriers to voting that target marginalized voters in states like North Carolina. It would also advance election integrity and security across our nation, and erode big money’s stranglehold on all branches of government at every level.

Specifically, the bills would assist N.C. voters of all political stripes voters with provisions
that:

  • expand same-day voter registration to Election Day and make it a federal holiday,
  • limit voter purges which removed over 570,000 North Carolinians from the rolls in 2019,
  • provide for independent, nonpartisan redistricting commissions in future years,
  • blunt the impact of Citizens United and limit big money in politics, and
  • ban post-release felony disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of North Carolinians.

With North Carolina’s state legislative leaders poised to allow many successful (and in some cases life-saving) COVID-related expansions to voting access to expire in 2021, institute yet another restrictive voter I.D. law, and once again use partisan methods to redraw our state’s
political maps, the time is now for the federal government to act “For the People.”

Historic turnout in the 2020 election among North Carolina’s Republican, Democrat and unaffiliated voters — all amid a pandemic — makes clear that bold and thoughtful action to aid voters and expand our elections when they need it most does work. That turnout should also not be treated as a sign that no help is needed— it reflects the importance that the public assigns to elections, and underscores the need to protect their access and integrity. The “For the People” Acts would increase that turnout, protect voters that show up, and help secure our elections in the process.

The fate of this historic legislation now lies with electeds like North Carolina’s delegation, where it faces a more receptive Congress but still depends on the strong and vocal support of voters like you.

North Carolina may have been home to the hateful legacy behind this month’s insurrection; but we have a pathway to rectify our democratic future.

You can learn more abour H.R.1 and S.1, the “For the People” Acts, by clicking here.

Tomas Lopez is Executive Director of nonpartisan Democracy North Carolina, dedicated to building a political system that works for all voters.

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