Summary: The Freedom to Vote Act now facing a filibuster defeat in the US Senate specifies rules to implement fair elections. It is a desperately needed cure for systematic efforts to subvert the principle of one-person-one-vote in order to profit the GOP. Similarly, single payer specifies a set of rules to implement fair (and efficient) health care, a desperately needed cure for our system’s subversion of the right to health care in order to profit the rich. Both reforms enjoy majority support; can they prevail?
Letters from an American, January 12, 2022, by Heather Cox Richardson
The Freedom to Vote Act provisions [our summary from narrative]:
Voting Process: Two weeks of early voting, including nights and weekends, minimum 10 hours a day. Voting by mail and drop box. Election Day a holiday. Uniform standards for voter IDs. Waiting time max 30 minutes. Federal crime to lie to voters to deter voting. Increased penalties for voter intimidation.
Voting Eligibility: Voter registration – uniform rules; automatic at DMV; same-day & online; protection from voter list purges. Federal voting rights for people who have been incarcerated.
Equal Representation: No partisan gerrymandering.
Election Funding: Disclosure of major donors and advertising funders. Harder for PACs to coordinate with candidates. Stronger Federal Election Commission oversight.
Vote Count: Protects local election officers from intimidation and firing for partisan purposes. Expands penalties for tampering with ballots. Regulates election audits. Voting machines must leave a paper record.
Sinema Rejects Changing Filibuster, Dealing Biden a Setback, New York Times, January 14, 2022, by Carl Hulse
President Biden’s campaign to push new voting rights protections through Congress appeared all but dead on Thursday, after it became clear that he had failed to unite his own party behind his drive to overhaul Senate rules to enact the legislation over Republican opposition.
In an embarrassing setback for Mr. Biden, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, stunned her colleagues just hours before the president was slated to make his case to them in person at the Capitol by taking the Senate floor to declare that she would not support undermining the filibuster to pass legislation under any circumstances.
By Jim Kahn, M.D., M.P.H.
Our democracy stands at a crossroads. The GOP is altering state voting laws to make it harder for Democrats to vote, to assure GOP legislator majorities much higher than vote majorities (via gerrymandering), and to install partisan election officials who can declare victory even if the GOP loses. This week, President Biden delivered a long-overdue, impassioned defense of democracy. He is urging Senate passage of The Freedom to Vote Act, already through the House of Representatives. It can win in the Senate only if all 50 Democrats agree to carve out an exception to the filibuster rule that permits 41 Senators to stall legislation. At the moment, prospects are slim, due to opposition by Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and likely Joe Manchin (WV). Their arguments that protecting the filibuster will restore bipartisanship are not credible.
As I took in Prof. Richardson’s summary of The Freedom to Vote Act, it was obvious how similar this bill is to single payer.
Both are based on laudable goals rooted in fundamental values, using simple, efficient, and equitable means.
The Freedom to Vote Act aims to make voting fair, using procedures to realize the fundamental democratic value of one-person-one-vote. The rules proposed are simple (clear and unconvoluted), efficient (through standardization), and equitable (similarly treating all voters in all states).
Single payer aims to make health care universal, using procedures to realize the fundamental human right to health care. The mechanisms are simple (one payer, standard benefits, uniform payments), efficient (slash administrative burden and profits), and equitable (everyone is similarly covered).
Both end exploitation of systems (voting and health care) for personal and group gain – especially by the rich and powerful.
Both enjoy majority popular support. Democrats in the Senate represent 50-56% of US voters, depending how to count, to the GOP’s 43%. And 70% of voters support the Freedom to Vote Act. National single payer support is 50-60% with neutral phrasing.
I’m not cheered by today’s news about Sen. Sinema’s obstruction. I’m still hoping desperately that she, Sen. Manchin, and all Senate Democrats take the actions so obviously necessary to preserve voting rights and democracy.
Regardless, the linked fights for democracy and for single payer continue.