Dozens of Republican-sponsored proposals across the US to curb voting rights in the wake of 2020 elections are “really and truly un-American,” says former Vice President Al Gore, who has joined growing opposition to GOP-backed bills that civil rights groups argue will disproportionately target voters of colour.
He told CNN that the more than 200 bills in at least 43 states to restrict ballot access are a “naked effort to try and suppress Black, brown and Indigenous votes, suppress any kind of votes from people who they think will not go for the far-right, ‘promote the interest of the wealthy’ program.”
The former vice president and 2000 Democratic presidential candidate said he believes Republicans “actually believe that this country would be better if the wealthy and powerful had more control over all the decisions – that’s an argument that has been raging in this country since the very beginning.”
“History has proven that when we expand the right to vote and when more people vote, and when all points of view and perspectives are brought together, we make better decisions,” he said.
He told CNN that he supports automatic voter registration and opening federal elections to weekends, rather than on Tuesdays.
“We ought to invite everyone into the voting booth and have everyone take part in helping to guide this nation,” he said.
Automatic voter registration is a central provision in a sweeping voting rights bill that passed the House of Representatives earlier this month. If signed into law, the measure would supersede state-level restrictions and constitute the largest election access measure since the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act in 1965.
HR 1, or the For The People Act, would standardise voting access at the federal level, eliminate long-standing barriers to voting and allow candidates with smaller platforms to wield more political power.
The White House-backed measure also mandates at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections, expands mail-in voting access and calls for drop boxes for absentee ballots, among a host of other proposals wrapped into the bill. It would also make it more difficult to purge voters from voter rolls and would restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people.
Republicans in state legislatures across the US have proposed eliminating so-called “no excuse” mail-in voting as well as early voting periods and ballot drop boxes, mandating restrictive voter ID laws and other proposals in the name of election “security” or “integrity” and to “restore trust” in elections.
Voting rights advocates and civil rights groups have argued that former president Donald Trump’s persistent lie that the election was stolen from him, and his legal team’s attempts to overturn millions of Americans’ votes, has emboldened Republican state lawmakers across the US to do what Mr Trump and his attorneys could not, using “election integrity” or “election safety” to mask Mr Trump’s claims at the heart of their objections.
On Monday, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas – where Republican lawmakers have filed more than two dozen bills aimed at elections in the second-largest state in the US – has made the legislation an “emergency” priority to restore “trust and confidence in the outcome” of the state’s elections, although he admitted that he is not aware of any elections altered by fraud.
One day earlier, he told Fox News that Democrats in Congress are “trying to institutionalise voter fraud” with HR 1, and that voting by mail is “one of the easiest ways to cheat in elections is through these mail-in ballots” though he did not provide evidence. He told reporters on Monday that he was not aware of any fraud in 2020 elections, which saw the re-election of Republican incumbent Senator John Cornyn and a win for Mr Trump.
Former President Jimmy Carter has also criticised voting restrictions in Georgia, where Republicans have sought to strip access to mail-in voting, eliminate automatic voter registration and cut early voting periods, among other drastic rollbacks to voting rights after 2020 elections saw Democratic victories in the state.
He said the measures are an attempt to “turn back the clock” on voting access.
“I am disheartened, saddened and angry,” he said in a statement from his Carter Center, which has observed elections in 39 countries as part of its efforts to promote democracy abroad. It launched its first US election initiative in 2020, citing an “erosion” of democracy in the country.
Mr Carter said the proposals in Georgia are largely “reactions to allegations of fraud for which no evidence was produced – allegations that were, in fact, refuted through various audits, recounts, and other measures.”
Stacey Abrams told CNN that “it’s not that there was a question of security” in 2020 elections, noting that Georgia’s GOP governor and secretary of state, as well as other Republican officials, went to “great pains” to ensure Georgians their 2020 election was not tainted with fraud.
Ms Abrams, who launched massive voter registration and enfranchisement campaigns in the state, which elected two Democratic senators and the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1992, said that “the only connection that we can find is that more people of colour voted, and it changed the outcome of elections in a direction that Republicans do not like.”
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