The American democratic experiment depends first and foremost on our faith that our vote counts and that every vote counts equally. Any challenge to that belief is an attack on our democracy, and we must demand vigilance to protect against those who would seek to disenfranchise American citizens or otherwise compromise the integrity of our electoral system. This should not be a partisan issue. We all have a stake.
It is imperative that we strengthen the integrity of our elections by making voting, registering to vote, and getting to the polls as easy as possible. We must vigorously oppose gerrymandering, voter suppression and other efforts to make our government anything other than a representative of all the people. We must remove the outsized influence of money on our elections by overturning the Citizens United decision and restoring transparency to all money donated for political purposes.
It has been established without a doubt that Russia actively sought to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. Whether or not the Trump team colluded with Russians is the subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation, which he must be allowed to complete. A government that depends on the consent of the governed cannot long survive if our elections are subject to foreign manipulation or interference. Our political leaders of both parties must be dedicated to finding out the truth about that interference and taking strong action to prevent it from ever happening again.
As a Member of Congress, I would take the following actions to protect the free and fair elections that are central to our democracy:
- Introduce legislation to create a “Geneva Convention” for cyberwarfare and election tampering. We need an international framework to create unambiguous lines and an international consensus on how to deal with future cyber attacks – political or otherwise.
- Protect our voting machines. I would convene relevant experts from the Department of Defense and the National Security Agency to do a full vetting of voting machine technology to ‘hack-proof’ our election systems from foreign or domestic interference.
- Incentivize all states to adopt automatic voter registration to ensure a fully representative democracy. Rather than seeking to restrict or repress the right to vote, we should embrace a national policy of encouraging all who are eligible to exercise their franchise.
- Restore the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that were gutted by the Shelby v Holder decision. Subsequent efforts to restrict voting rights demonstrates that this decision has encouraged some state-level authorities to disenfranchise poor, minority and student voters. We must correct that mistake.
- Support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision. In the meantime, we should take concrete, immediately achievable actions to increase the transparency of campaign spending, such as the Shareholder Protection Act.
- Support efforts to curtail gerrymandering, which has enabled politicians to choose their voters rather than the other way around. We should encourage the states to adopt non-partisan redistricting through successful reforms like Arizona’s non-partisan commission and Iowa’s computer model.
- Restore voting rights to non-violent offenders. America is a place where one can redeem themselves and earn a second chance at success, even after breaking the law. Once someone has done their time and paid their debts to society, they should regain the right to vote. A chief role of our criminal justice system is rehabilitation and preparation for successful re-entry into the community. It is not possible to say re-entry is successful when former felons are functionally second-class citizens. Over six million Americans are disenfranchised due to prior felony convictions, many of which are crimes committed years or decades ago and for non-violent, non-sexual offenses. A disproportionate number of those affected are people of color. Congress should work toward smart criminal justice reform, which must include full restoration of voting rights for non-violent offenders.
- Move Election Day to the weekend. Getting out to the polls can be hard regardless of what day of the week it is — especially for parents working multiple jobs or lacking access to adequate transportation. Keeping Election Day on Tuesday makes it even harder for more Americans who work regular hours. We should move federal elections to the weekend, to give the more families the most flexibility to exercise their right to vote.
- Lower the federal voting age to 16. For many, their first election corresponds to their first time living independently, leading to a corresponding reduction in voting relative to other demographics. By dropping to 16, peoples’ first vote will be with their parents, starting a culture of participation. As states like Illinois institute motor-voter registration, this will also serve to tie the right to drive with the right to vote.