This article is part of TPM Cafe, TPM’s home for opinion and news analysis.
Voting is the lifeblood of U.S. democracy. Through wars and epidemics, Americans have proudly cast their ballots and participated in the political process in order to sustain a more perfect union.
But the election that took place in Georgia last week should serve as a dire warning that the ongoing national crisis is still a fundamental threat to our democracy.
Stories from Georgians across the state are horrifying: from thousands of voters failing to receive their absentee ballots in time, to shuttered polling places and hours-long lines at the few sites still open. Countless voters were disenfranchised and unneededly forced to put their health at risk.
This chaos and voter suppression are entirely preventable. Secretaries of States and election officials should be doing everything in their power to expand mail-in voting, guarantee no-excuse absentee ballots, and expand early voting. And Congress should be providing them the resources to do so.
But despite intense grassroots pressure from groups like ours — Stand Up America and Common Cause — and support from a majority of Americans, Senate Republicans are still blocking urgently-needed election assistance for the states.
In March, we joined a large coalition of civil rights and voting rights groups to urge lawmakers to give states the resources to safely hold elections and prioritize voters’ health. Democrats in both the House and Senate fought for election assistance funding to be included in the first major COVID-19 response package. Yet, as Congress allocated $2 trillion to address the health and economic crisis, the bill shortchanged our democracy by providing just $400 million for election reforms — amounting to less than 0.02 percent of the stimulus package.
In April, we implored congressional leaders to increase their investment in the election and grant states at least $4 billion in funding. Yet, as Congress passed other relief bills, Republicans failed to prioritize the health of democracy.
In May, we continued to speak out, mobilizing millions of our Stand Up America and Common Cause members to make it clear that the American people wanted immediate action. After our organizations drove over 180,000 constituent calls to the offices of every member of Congress, House Democrats passed legislation allocating an additional $3.6 billion in funds to states, with support from a single Republican lawmaker — New York Representative Pete King.
But it’s now been four weeks since the HEROES Act was sent to the Senate, and Mitch McConnell still has yet to bring it to a vote or even debate the legislation. He’s even suggested there is no urgency to act.
To put it bluntly: McConnell is holding our democracy hostage.
Poll after poll continues to show that a majority of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, want states to implement no-excuse absentee voting and other reforms amid the pandemic. Democratic and Republican election officials in states from coast to coast have urged Congress for more funding to prepare for November.
Over 40 Senate Democrats are demanding action. Several senators — including Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Ron Wyden — all created plans that would have provided at least $4 billion in funding to states. Even Republican Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), who’s not exactly known as a champion for voting rights, has said that it’s necessary for states to receive more funds.
So why, with less than five months until November 3rd, has Mitch McConnell failed to take action?
It should be clear to members of both parties that the cost of ensuring that every eligible voter can safely cast their ballot is a small price for Congress to pay to preserve our democracy — and the bill is due.
Continued inaction from McConnell is an abdication of Congress’s responsibility that puts our democracy at risk. Americans deserve better than partisan games right now — the future of our democracy demands it.
Sean Eldridge is the Founder and President of Stand Up America, a grassroots community of over 2 million progressives working to strengthen our democracy nationwide.
Karen Hobert Flynn is the President of Common Cause, a nonpartisan organization with over 1.2 million members that has been working for 50 years to uphold the core values of American democracy.