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In voting rights debate, a struggle to preserve American democracy | READER COMMENTARY

Texas State Rep. Chris Turner, chairman of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, center, and Democratic members of the Texas legislature hold a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, after they left Austin hoping to kill a Republican bill making it harder to vote in Texas. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Texas State Rep. Chris Turner, chairman of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, center, and Democratic members of the Texas legislature hold a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, after they left Austin hoping to kill a Republican bill making it harder to vote in Texas. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The recent commentary, “Voting rights legislation should have passed, but not for the reasons you think” (July 6), highlighted the items that received most attention in the For the People Act. Passage of the bill would have significantly overhauled our voting procedures. Yes, gerrymandering is a problem with our current districting apparatus. However, the real problem with eliminating gerrymandering does not lie with, and cannot be abolished by, Congress under prevailing laws. It is state legislatures that regulate congressional districting in almost all states, and most state legislatures have GOP majorities. Only by setting up independent elections commissions nationwide can we rid ourselves of this menace to our democratic process, something the GOP is unlikely to support.

According to New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, other alarming trends against voters include a nationwide effort to expand the powers of poll watchers, which invites opportunities to intimidate or harass voters at the polls. Three new state laws seek to punish local election officials for technical mistakes. Bills that limit executive and local power have been enacted in five states. In 2020, nonpartisan philanthropic grants were helpful to election officials’ ability to conduct safe elections during the pandemic. Today, five new bills restrict this.

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The struggle for a voting rights bill should not be viewed from a partisan prism. It is an ongoing battle for the soul of American democracy. It is an effort we can ill afford to lose.

Patrick Machayo, Perryville

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