[COLUMN] Voter suppression by Republican leaders is a blatant violation of the most important constitutional right of citizens in a democracy

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DEMOCRACY is the government of the people, by the people, for the people. The laws of the land, therefore, are meant to protect the governed, and not the governor; the citizens and not the public officials who only have the power and the public trust accorded to their office by the citizens.

The will of the people is voiced out through the right of suffrage. The right to vote freely is the foundation, the cornerstone of democracy.

The right to vote freely is protected by the Constitution, as it should be by federal and state laws. Constitutional Amendments 15th, 19th and 26th, are added onto the highest law of the land to make sure voting rights of U.S. citizens cannot be abridged on account of race, color, previous condition of servitude, sex, or age (18 and older is now the legal age to vote).

The sacred goal of every branch of government — executive, legislative, and judiciary — is to make sure this most sacred right in a democracy is protected and strengthened by each generation so that the will of the people, and not the selfish and twisted personal and political agenda of public officials and their conspirators and enablers that go against what is in the best interest of all citizens, pursuant to the rule of law.

But this is not what is happening now in the United States, especially after the term of the 45th President of the United States Donald J. Trump, who has hijacked the Republican Party, the Good Old Party (GOP), that used to be faithful to and fight for the Constitution and the rule of law, because of his and his cronies’ greed for power.

What have these GOP leaders been doing after the American people voted out Trump and many Republicans in the legislature and state posts? What have they been pushing after counties and states that used to lean Republican have now been leaning Democrat, which lead to the Republicans losing the Presidency and the leadership in both the House and the Senate?

This shift of vote of from red to blue was evidenced in a clean and honest election certified by election officials representing Republicans, Democrats and Independents, affirmed by no less than the Supreme Court of the United States and many lower courts in the judiciary.

These despicable Republicans who would not respect the will of the people through their sacred votes have decided to change the laws instead, rationalizing this assault on our democracy and our Constitution by lies and conspiracy theories espoused by Donald Trump who maliciously and falsely claim that the election was stolen from him by massive election fraud, a lie supported by his minions without bases in fact.

As Mother Jones reported, “361 voter suppression bills have already been introduced this year,” and that “Republicans in state legislatures are dramatically escalating their efforts to restrict voting rights.”

A new report by the Brennan Center for Justice revealed that “361 bills to make it harder to vote have been introduced in 47 states in the first three months of this year, overwhelmingly by Republicans. That’s up from 253 restrictive bills tallied as of February 19, an increase of 43% in just over a month.”

The reporting further said: “Five restrictive bills have already been signed into law—in Georgia, Iowa, Arkansas, and Utah. The Georgia law passed last week prohibits giving food and water to voters in line, severely restricts mail ballot drop boxes, allows right-wing groups to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters, and gives the GOP-controlled legislature sweeping new powers over election administration.”

As of press time, there are 55 restrictive bills that are moving through state legislatures in 24 states; 29 have passed at least one legislative chamber.

More details on the voter suppression as reported: “The Texas Senate passed a sweeping bill that bans extended voting hours, prohibits drive-thru voting, closes polling places in minority neighborhoods, and allows partisan poll watchers to record voters who receive help filling out their ballots, greatly increasing the prospect of voter intimidation. The bill is widely viewed as targeting the voting methods used by large Democratic areas like Houston’s Harris County to increase voter turnout in 2020. Lawmakers in Texas (49 bills), Georgia (25 bills), and Arizona (23 bills) have introduced the largest number of restrictive measures this year.”

“Most restrictive bills take aim at absentee voting, while nearly a quarter seek stricter voter ID requirements,” the report reveals. “State lawmakers also aim to make voter registration harder, expand voter roll purges or adopt flawed practices that would risk improper purges, and cut back on early voting.”

In Arizona, ‘legislation would make it more difficult to receive a mail-in ballot and add new requirements for casting one. Florida wants to ban all mail ballot drop boxes, which 1.5 million voters used in 2020. Michigan Republicans introduced eight restrictive bills in a single day, including adding new voter ID requirements for mail voting and prohibiting election officials from sending out absentee ballot request forms to voters, the report finds”.

Thankfully there are legislators who push to help more citizens exercise their votes freely, in fulfillment of the Constitutional mandate.

Mother Jones reported: ‘843 bills to expand access to the ballot have also been introduced in 47 states. While most have no chance of becoming law in red states, nine bills have been signed into law this year, mostly in blue states like Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.”

In Virginia, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam “signaled his support for a state-level Voting Rights Act, which would make it the first southern state to adopt protections for voters that the Supreme Court gutted in 2013”.

“At a time when voting rights are under attack across our country, Virginia is expanding access to the ballot box, not restricting it,” he said.

WE, THE PEOPLE, need to speak up and speak out against these rotten politicians who are undermining our power and our rights. They do not deserve the public trust they are abusing for their own selfish agenda. They are not true public servants and must be voted out from the office they hold.

WE, THE PEOPLE, have such power. Let us not abdicate our solemn duty to defend and protect our democracy.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at gelrelos@icloud.com, or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.

Gel Santos Relos
Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com and www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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