You & The Voting Rights Battle of 2021

The Brennan Center for Justice recently published “Voting Laws Roundup 2021” (February 8, 2021) By their count, 33 states had proposed about 100 bills to restrict voting access versus 37 states that proposed about 400 bills to expand voting access.

It doesn’t sound too dismal, does it? Not until you read the details, some of which include:
• Eliminate no-excuse mail voting and eliminate drop boxes
• Require mail ballots to be notarized
• Allow the general public unobstructed access to observe absentee ballot processing and expand voter roll purges.
• Prohibit using student ID’s and require citizenship verification.

On the other hand, there’s legislation proposed to:
• Expand vote by mail and increase ballot drop boxes
• Improve “notice and cure” practices so voter errors can be corrected
• Expand return deadlines and start processing mail ballots early
• Allow same-day and automatic voter registration
• Restore voting rights to former prisoners

So, while state legislators battle over these changes, what can we – you and I – do to promote voting rights? Two thoughts come to mind.

First, make sure your representatives know how you and your friends are thinking. Thank those who have promoted rights and make sure voting rights opponents also know how you feel. Get your friends in other states involved, too.

Second, make the effort to understand the voters who believe and feel very differently from you. This is not the same as agreeing or coming to a compromise. Many excellent books and articles have appeared on how to listen carefully and ask questions that don’t make people angry or defensive. Adam Granth published an editorial, “The Science of Reasoning with Unreasonable People” in the New York Times (Jan. 31, 2021), subtitled “Don’t try to change someone else’s mind. Instead, help them find their own motivation to change.” See also Megan Phelps-Roper’s TED Talk from 2019 with “4 tips for talking to people you disagree with,” including different values.

We are all Americans and need to find something in common with fellow Americans, whether they think like us or not. I’d love to hear your ideas for more ways to bridge the divide that exists today.