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America’s democracy is imperiled, and as we approach a coming crucible with a vote on the For the People Act in the Senate, we would all do well to remember: when someone tells you who they are, believe them.
“The idea of democracy and Majority rule really is what goes against our history and what the country stands for,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) recently said.
Paul is only the most recent Republican politician to call into question the very democracy that governs the American way of life. The Republican Party is telling us who they are. From Donald Trump’s big lie about the election, to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on down — they are telling us that they do not believe in our democracy. We should listen to them.
Republicans are not alone in their ignoble anti-democracy status. They are joined by Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), whose commitment to preserving the filibuster puts them on the same side of history as Jim Crow. We call on them to join the side of history bending towards justice.
Now let us tell you who we are. I am LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, and I believe passionately in our democracy. Black Voters Matter conducted an extensive and robust phone banking and texting campaign in 2020. Sixty-six percent of voters contacted by BVM voted; 56 percent of voters not contacted by BVM voted. In other words, those that were contacted by BVM voted at a rate 10 percent higher than those who were not contacted by us. Today, Black Voters Matter is on the frontlines of the fight against voter suppression and we are listening to voters as they express fear over efforts to take away their right to vote in forty states. Over the next few weeks, we will be visiting nine cities across the South for our Freedom Ride for Voting Rights, in celebration of Juneteenth and to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the original Freedom Rides. We’ll continue listening and speaking to Black voters and putting pressure on the elected officials who represent us to do their job and support the For the People Act and fight voter suppression.
And I am Eric Laufer, founder and board chairman of Public Wise, an organization that fights to secure a government that reflects the will and protects the rights of the people. We collaborate with frontline organizations like Black Voters Matter. I not only trust, but rely on the leadership of our partners, like LaTosha Brown. I also give generously and frequently to the Democratic Party and democracy-related efforts in my personal capacity. I have put $5 million annually into Public Wise. Between 2020 and 2021 I have given over $1 million to the Democratic Party and its campaign arms. I consider this “Light-Money,” transparently given, whose use is to make our democracy more equitable.
While our backgrounds are different, we share an unwavering commitment to making democracy equitable and accessible, especially to BIPOC communities who have suffered from a long history of voter suppression.
The bottom line here is both organizers, like the Black Voters Matter staff who are getting out the vote, and funders, are committed to protecting our democracy and are working together to do it.
The problem is Republicans continue to push anti-democracy legislation in state legislatures based on lies about voter fraud. Republicans and Donald Trump are adamant that this swung the election, while the national security and intelligence apparatus, along with local election officials and multiple external investigations, have concluded not only that voter fraud was not a factor in the election, but this was the most secure election in our recent history.
Don’t take our word for it – take theirs. The Heritage Foundation, an organization self-described as committed to promoting conservative public policy, maintains a voter fraud database where they document cases of proven voter fraud, and their own data shows voter fraud is extremely rare: between 2008 and 2018, no more than 0.004 percent of ballots cast were fraudulent.
So if there is no massive wave of voter fraud, why are there so many restrictive voting laws being presented in state legislatures across the country? Republicans know the key to winning for them is to stifle turnout from communities of color. Since the election they have actively tried to make it harder for these Americans to vote. This year, 253 bills in 43 states mostly controlled by Republican legislatures have been introduced to stop more people from participating in our democratic process. Public Wise research has shown that laws that make it harder to vote suppress voter turnout but don’t affect the incidence of voter fraud. Which means that the arguments being made as to why these laws are being introduced smell like what comes from the tail-end of a bull.
We must fundamentally transform our democracy and expand voting rights for all by passing the For the People Act, which would end partisan gerrymandering and voter purges, as well as allow Election Day registration, enact small-dollar matching and provide election security. All Americans, no matter their race, background or zip code, should not rest until these unamerican restrictions to the ballot are ditched by state legislatures or dismantled by federal democracy reform.
The choice for senators and all Americans is simple: we protect our democracy for everyone, or let Republicans dismantle it for everyone but their own voters. We know who Republicans are, because they have repeatedly told us they do not care about democracy. Now it falls to Democrats to show us who they are and what they believe in.
LaTosha Brown is the co-founder of Black Voters Matter.
Eric Laufer is the founder and board chairman of Public Wise.