Wisconsin has long been a symbol of progress. Our state motto, Forward, commits us to building a better future. When I first ran for office I promised to fight for every Wisconsinite – no matter their age, zip code, religion, identity, or skin color. I’m proud to be from here; however, as threats to democracy loom, I worry that our government will no longer reflect the will of the people.
Unprecedented attacks on our electoral system are now a part of today’s daily news. With calls for the removal of public officials and recent attempts by members of our state legislature to hold on to power, the threats to our democratic values are real. Partisan gerrymandering is a parasite that destroys voters’ ability to be heard, especially in marginalized communities.
While it’s easy to grow weary or distracted given all that has been plaguing our state, now is the time to remain strong and steady. The future of our democracy depends on it.
Thankfully, the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act offer critical protections by expanding access to the polls, preventing voter suppression, and ensuring everyone’s ballot counts. They provide a federal standard that will not only protect us here in Wisconsin but will protect all Americans and restore confidence in our electoral system.
The benchmarks outlined in these acts hold politicians accountable, setting uniform standards for redistricting and removing barriers to vote. When voters wait hours to cast their ballots and intimidation becomes a common practice at the polls, it’s clear we need reform. We must strive to build a government that works for the people, not against, and these provisions are vital in doing so.
Since leaving office I founded Power to the Polls Wisconsin a community-based initiative with a simple mission: to motivate and inspire voters to turn out in every election. My commitment has only grown despite the political polarization and actions of some in our state Legislature. It’s critical to continue to educate voters, increase turnout, remove barriers to participation, and hold our state elected officials accountable.
It’s also critical that we make Congress more transparent and hold Washington politicians accountable. Wisconsinites are tired of partisan games. They just want their fundamental rights. I’m glad leaders like Senator Tammy Baldwin have answered these calls and remained steady in their commitment. Over the past two years, Senator Baldwin has championed legislation that secures our democracy, including both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. In a time where toxic election denial and voter suppression divide us, we need lawmakers like her.
The landmark voting rights legislation now before Congress ensures that we can hear every voice, count every vote, and allow our democracy to thrive. As we stand at the brink of the 2024 election, there’s a consensus – irrespective of party lines – that our voting system needs protection. The Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are the answers, and I hope that Sen. Baldwin’s colleagues join her in her commitment to enact these bills in Congress.
When policies reflect the needs of the people, progress is inevitable. It’s not about politics; it’s about extending people the unobstructed right to choose their leaders.
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originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2023%2F10%2F04%2Fmandela-barnes-the-freedom-to-vote-act-safeguards-our-democracy-at-a-critical-moment%2F by Mandela Barnes