Voters throughout Washington should have received their primary ballots in the mail as drop boxes are popping up across our communities, making it easier for people to have their voices heard and votes counted. Washington state pioneered vote-by-mail and Seattle’s Democracy Vouchers. We passed my automatic voter registration proposal and approved same-day voter registration. And most recently, we restored the right to vote for individuals upon their release from prison — re-enfranchising 20,000 people.
The result should be no surprise. In November, a record number of Washingtonians voted as turnout surpassed 84%. According to the Census Bureau, turnout among eligible voters actually jumped by more than 5 percentage points since the last presidential election. We, in King County, even set a new all-time high with 85% of registered voters heading to the polls.
As we once again mail back or drop off our ballots, Washington’s leadership in not only protecting but expanding voting-rights needs to be an example to the nation. This is particularly urgent as we witness an ongoing, dangerous and coordinated assault by GOP-led legislatures across the country to suppress our votes and silence our voices. Republican lawmakers in 48 states have introduced nearly 400 voter-suppression provisions this year alone. More than 20 of these restrictive measures have already been signed into law, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. This undemocratic siege — which has been called “Jim Crow in a suit and tie” — is not slowing down.
Democratic lawmakers in Texas had to go as far as to walk out of the state House and leave the state in order to stall another voter-suppression bill from passing. This legislation would disproportionately hurt voters of color. It outlaws early and 24-hour voting, enables partisan poll watchers, ends drive-up voting that resembles Washington’s highly effective drop boxes and clamps down on the very vote-by-mail system that our state has used for years.
This kind of blatant voter suppression is exactly why I fought to pass the For the People Act through the House of Representatives in March. The landmark civil rights legislation would combat suppression efforts, expand voting rights and end the stifling effect that dark money has on the ability of everyday citizens to participate in our democracy. It would also bring many of the very measures that our state already has in place to the other 49 states. In fact, those heroic Texas Democrats who made a stand against the latest measure are now walking the halls of the nation’s Capitol begging the Senate to fulfill its constitutional duty, protect our right to vote and join the House in passing the For the People Act.
But just last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republicans in the Senate blocked even so much as the beginning of a conversation on the most sweeping voting-rights and anti-corruption bill in a generation. They deployed the filibuster, which requires 60 votes — not a simple majority — to move a proposal forward.
That is why I am renewing my call for the Senate to finally end the filibuster, which has been used for decades to block historic civil rights legislation, deny Black people equality and suppress the vote. I believe that we face a choice: it is the filibuster or our democracy. Non-action on voting rights is simply a non-starter.
Last election, voters made their voices clear by delivering Democrats control of the House, the Senate and the White House. On top of that powerful mandate, the 50 Democratic senators in office right now represent 41,549,808 more people than the 50 Republican senators who blocked the For the People Act. It is time that we end the tyranny of the minority, repeal the filibuster, protect your right to vote and save our democracy.
This is the only solution that meets the scale of the crisis. There is no scenario in which we are going to get 60 votes — 10 Republican votes — for addressing voting rights. After all, these are the same senators who used the filibuster to block the creation of a bipartisan commission to fully investigate the deadly Jan. 6 attack — an attack not only on our Capitol and our country, but on our democracy. History supports this, too. Between 1866 and 1890, Republicans in Congress enacted nine landmark civil rights laws; none of them received even a single Democratic vote. Their decision to move forward without the minority party and expand voting rights gave us the 15th Amendment.
We must do the same today. It will not be easy and it is an uphill battle, but it is a necessary battle. As a longtime organizer for immigrant, civil and workers’ rights who later authored Washington’s automatic voter registration bill while in the state Senate, I know the power of standing up, speaking out and getting involved. After you fill out your primary ballot, take a moment to protect our democracy for your neighbors throughout the country. Join me in urging the Senate to do whatever is necessary to pass the For the People Act. Washington has shown us the path forward on voting rights in years past. Now, let us guarantee voting rights into the future.