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September 24, 2021

Protecting voting rights essential to democracy

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Voters cast ballots at the Vint Hill Precinct last November.
By Andrea Martens

Every year is election year here in Virginia, and this year we are casting our ballots for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and all 100 members of the House of Delegates.

Early voting kicked off Sept. 17, and Oct. 12 is the deadline to register to vote before the Nov. 2 election.

“This right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless. It gives people, people as individuals, control over their own destinies,” Lyndon B. Johnson said.

An essential part of a well-functioning democracy, no less than five constitutional amendments safeguard this sacred right — the 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th. Nevertheless, Republicans across the country have introduced more than 400 bills with provisions that restrict voting access. Between January 1 and July 14, at least 18 states enacted 30 laws that curtail access to voting by making mail voting and early voting more difficult, imposing harsher voter ID requirements and conducting faulty voter purges.

While they would have you believe that these laws are necessary to deter voter fraud, the truth is that election fraud is virtually non-existent. Multiple studies in many states have found fraud rates for both mail- in and in-person voting are less than .0000002 percent. For comparison, you have a .0002 percent chance of being struck by lightning and a .0003 percent chance of being killed by fireworks.

These words from former President Trump reveal the truth behind GOP voter suppression efforts: “They had levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Meanwhile, thanks to the Democratic majority in the legislature, Virginia has become a national leader in voter protection. Since winning their majority in 2019, Democrats have taken historic steps to “expand the franchise and allow Virginians to have their voices heard,” House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said.

During the 2021 legislative session, Democrats passed House Bill 1890, the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, on a party line vote of 55-45. Fauquier County’s two Republican delegates, Michael Webert (18th/Marshall) and Mark Cole (88th/Spotsylvania), joined all their GOP colleagues in voting no. Only Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-31st/Woodbridge) voted to make accessing the ballot easier for all Virginians. Many of the measures contained in the bill are already in effect:

• Creating a permanent absentee vote-by-mail option.

• Removing the excuse requirement for absentee voting.

• Establishing Election Day as a state holiday.

• Expanding voter identification law to include certain non-photo IDs.

• Making voter registration applications available at high schools and colleges.

• Permitting early voting on Sundays.

• Allowing persons with disabilities or injuries to vote outside their polling places.

• Ensuring every voter can cast their ballot freely without threats, intimidation and misinformation.

If you believe that providing equal access to the polls to ALL eligible voters strengthens our democracy, please, cast your ballot for the party that shares your view. Take advantage of whichever option works for you, and vote for Democrats anytime between now and Nov. 2.

The writer is a member of the Fauquier County Democratic Committee and its Morrisville Precinct captain.
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