As Trump’s Big Lie festers among the Republican Party and political norms continue to erode, we at The New Republic are pretty concerned about the future of small “d” democracy, both in the U.S. and abroad. So we’ve started a series we’ve termed Democracy Watch, wherein we will regularly survey experts, writers, and generally interesting thinkers on a specific question about the state of democracy and what keeps them up at night.
This month’s question: Major voting reform legislation, beyond perhaps changes to the Electoral Count Act, is going nowhere in the Senate. What further action should the Biden administration take to protect ballot access?
Former U.S. attorney general
Our treasured democracy is at a moment of reckoning. We must do everything we can to protect the integrity of not only presidential elections but all elections. The Senate should consider and pass individual components of the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. But with or without new federal laws, the Department of Justice should use its power to vigorously enforce the Voting Rights Act and constitutional voting protections, especially in states that have restricted ballot access in recent years.
Co-director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Our democracy is in crisis and the Biden Administration must continue to use its bully pulpit to reinforce that message to lawmakers and the American public. The White House must continue to call for action, including congressional action on voting rights. The country needs a reinvigorated Department of Justice that is closely following, documenting, and challenging voter suppression and election subversion in laws recently passed by states.
President of Campaign Legal Center and a Republican former chairman of the Federal Election Commission
The Biden administration can take at least four important steps: first, mobilize agencies to provide registration materials to eligible voters; second, guarantee voting access for eligible voters in federal custody; third, direct the Department of Justice to deploy election monitors and enforce existing voter intimidation laws; and fourth, prioritize providing accurate information about our election system. This would help make voting safe and accessible for all.
Federal policy director at the ACLU
Congress should, can, and we believe will provide new protections for voters this year beyond Electoral Count Act changes, even if the changes are less than what is needed. And the Executive Branch has existing power to continue to urge federal agencies to provide expanded voter registration opportunities alongside their regular services, which can help reduce race and income-based disparities in voter registration.
Vice president of Democracy at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law
The fight against vote suppression and election sabotage is one of the biggest moral fights of our era. We cannot safeguard our democracy without strong federal action. The White House should insist that any compromise legislation meaningfully tackle race discrimination in voting and sabotage threats. It should encourage Congress to fund elections. And it should fully engage federal agencies in enforcing voting rights, protecting election officials and infrastructure, and ensuring access to registration and voting.
Chief strategy officer with the League of Women Voters
This is an opportunity for the Biden administration to lead by example and take bold action on voting rights. The White House should continue to work with civil society organizations like the League of Women Voters around electoral access and transparency and push Congress to find common ground on voting rights protections that restore the Voting Rights Act.
Senior policy advisor with the Southern Poverty Law Center
With politicians in state legislatures enacting barriers to voting and diminishing the voices of Black communities, we need the Biden administration to renew efforts to restore the Voting Rights Act and expand federal protections to increase access to the ballot box. Federal voting legislation remains the best way to protect voters and establish reasonable standards for access to polls.