Expanding voter access

We want to build on our success of last November's election and record turnouts

PUTNEY — Whether it's the latest baseless contention that President Biden wants to ban meat or the ongoing unfounded contentions of election fraud, facts do matter.

Thankfully Vermont voters - and a majority of voters in our country - are proving they don't buy fact-less attempts to deceive. So it is “curiouser and curiouser” as to why the ongoing attempts to spread fact-less opinions?

Across the nation, at least 60 cases have been brought to court alleging voter fraud in the last election and 60 have been dismissed for lack of facts.

Free speech laws allow anyone to say pretty much anything in the court of public opinion. In a court of law, though, you can't say anything without evidence to back it up.

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Sidney Powell, the former president's lawyer, is finding that out, as she is being sued for defamation by voting machine manufacturer Dominion. Having to face the lack of facts in her public statements about Dominion's products in a civil defamation lawsuit, she's now changing her tune. Her lawyers have argued that “[n]o reasonable person would conclude that her statements were truly statements of fact.”

Even judges appointed by former President Trump, like U.S. Judge Matthew Brann of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, ruled that the campaign's charges of voter fraud were “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations” that were “unsupported by evidence.”

Judge Brann went on, “In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more.”

Still, these unsupported claims across the nation, are leading to expansion of the greater threat to our democratic republic and voter suppression, especially of BIPOC Americans.

Forty-three states now have seen laws proposed that would limit access to voting under the guise of making elections more secure, despite ongoing research from the Brennan Center for Justice turning up no widespread fraud that could swing an election. This includes states like Utah and Oregon, which exclusively use mail-in voting.

Georgia, after electing both President Biden and two Democratic senators, has passed one of the most egregious of the voter suppression laws, one that most especially will affect urban areas predominantly populated by African Americans. They've gone so far as to make illegal the act of giving water or food to voters who have been standing in line for hours.

Apparently the Bible (“I was thirsty and you gave me drink,” Matthew 25:35) does not apply if you're been standing for hours in a Georgia voting line.

As misguided as these attempts at voter suppression are, does anyone really think this will do anything but further inspire BIPOC Americans to get out and vote?

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And, right here, as opinions are continued to be offered - without evidence - suggesting voter fraud has taken place in Vermont, it suggests the lessons of the last election are being lost.

Majorities, here and across the nation, voted for safety, for reasonable policies to address an unfolding pandemic, and for facts. We wanted facts about Covid, the economy, treatments, and the realities of the two crises that will remain after this pandemic fades: climate and racial/social justice.

Whether it's false allegations of voter fraud or denial of the reality of climate change and systemic racism, facts do matter.

Mindful of the real threat to elections that voter suppression brings, in Vermont we are working to continue expanding voter access. We want to build on the success of actions we started for last November's election - one that, despite a pandemic, resulted in record turnout.

We're also working on actions that include giving voters the ability to “cure” a ballot that's been mailed in. This would allow a voter who thinks they didn't complete their ballot according to the letter of the law to remedy the problem, or who wants to change their vote to do so before the election.

And, in Brattleboro, after the town passed an amendment to the Town Charter to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in town elections, the Vermont House passed this Charter change. That milestone next awaits action in the Senate. Letting young people get in the habit of voting early creates lifelong voters - the lifeblood of a healthy democracy.

Once again, little ol' Vermont is being a leader to increase access to the voting booth, while other states seek to limit it.

Let's help keep Vermont in the fore of voting rights and access. And let's do so based on facts, because - especially in regards to elections - facts do matter.

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