Tuesday Night Owls: Rep. Sarbanes’ H.R. 1 bill would implement vote-by-mail and other voting reforms

Tuesday Night Owls: Rep. Sarbanes’ H.R. 1 bill would implement vote-by-mail and other voting reforms

Night Owls is a themed open thread appearing at Daily Kos seven days a week.

Eric Cortallessa at The Washington Monthly writes—How to Get Vote-by-Mail Reform to Biden’s DeskA powerful House bill faces long odds in the Senate. Here’s what Democrats should fight for—and what they can compromise on:

After the 2020 election, America’s electoral infrastructure is in a weird place. At least six states controlled by Democrats are moving to advance the vote-by-mail expansions made during the pandemic. In New York, for example, Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for a law to allow “no-excuse” absentee balloting. At the same time, Republicans in a handful of states are unambiguously trying to make mail-voting harder. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said he wants to impose a photo ID requirement for anyone requesting a mail ballot, thereby adding a new obstacle for Georgians to vote from home. In Texas, Republican legislators introduced nearly a dozen bills attacking vote by mail, one of which would prohibit the state from sending all voters absentee ballot applications. These moves are on top of actions that GOP officials made last year under pressure from Donald Trump to suppress the vote, such as restricting the use of ballot drop boxes and banning the early processing of absentee ballots.

Given this one-step-forward-two-steps-back reality, the only way to ensure that every American can vote by mail if they want to is for the federal government to create a new baseline of uniform minimum standards that all states would have to meet.

Thankfully, one of the first major legislative initiatives in the new Congress would do precisely that. H.R.1., an exhaustive bill that’s more than 800 pages long, is practically a Christmas tree of progressive democracy-reform priorities: from expanding automatic, online, and same-day voter registration, to ending felony disenfranchisement.

But, unlike the first version of the bill, which passed the House in March 2019 and predictably went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Senate, it also includes key provisions that would build on the success of widespread vote by mail in the 2020 election. It would make no-excuse absentee voting a national right, allowing every American to vote by mail without needing to provide a reason, as some states still require. It would prohibit states from making voters get their mail ballots co-signed or notarized, removing an unnecessary barrier that makes it more difficult to vote from home. It would mandate that every county have a sufficient number of drop boxes where voters can return their filled-out ballots. It would have the federal government pre-pay all postage on absentee ballots, getting rid of yet another barrier to mail voting: cost. It would require that states allow voters to deliver mail ballots at polling stations. And it would bar states from enacting voter ID requirements to request a mail ballot, which Republicans in Georgia and Texas are now pushing for.

Together, these measures would improve the voting process in countless ways—for instance, by getting rid of the uncertainty that voters and elections faced last fall while local laws were litigated, and requirements changed day by day. H.R.1 also has some of the best mechanisms to “prevent Republicans from dismantling voting rights and voting access under the guise of security, all in reaction to allegations of voter fraud that they themselves fabricated,” said Tammy Patrick, former commissioner on Obama’s Presidential Commission on Election Administration. […]

THREE OTHER ARTICLES WORTH READING

TOP COMMENTS • RESCUED DIARIES THE BRIEF

TWEET OF THE DAY

Id like to think had we known 5 years ago that COVID-19 was 100% coming, we would have mobilized to mitigate it, if not stop it. Preventing the death of millions. But the fact that the climate crisis is aiming to cause the death of millions more makes me strongly doubt that.

— Dallas Goldtooth (@dallasgoldtooth) February 2, 2021

QUOTATION

“One of the qualities of liberty is that, as long as it is being striven after, it goes on expanding. Therefore, the man who stands in the midst of the struggle and says, ‘I have it’, merely shows by doing so that he has just lost it.”  ~~Henrik Ibsen (1871)

BLAST FROM THE PAST

On this date at Daily Kos in 2010—Today’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” hearing:

In what Carl Levin (D-MI) described as a “profile in leadership,” today Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen gave a stirring personal statement in support of repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy

But as expected, during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Defense Secretary Gates and Mullen announced that the Pentagon would begin a yearlong study to determine how to end the military’s discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

And at the same time, several Republican opposition themes emerged: we can’t do this while we’re in the middle of two wars, they understand that the witnesses are just following orders from their Leftist-in-Chief, or that Gates and Mullen are biased and will exert undue influence on their subordinates to get the results they want. Take your pick.

So, why will it take a year of reviews, studies and surveys to decide that saying “none of your damned business” is the only policy they need? 

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