• June 21st, 2024
  • Friday, 09:33:22 PM

The World’s Oldest Democracy Is at Stake


Photo: Javier Sierra Deliver for Voting Rights March in Washington, DC.

 

Javier Sierra

 

I was in Madrid on Feb. 23, 1981, the day a group of mutinous army officers stormed the Spanish Parliament and held the entire legislative and executive powers at gunpoint. The dread of an incoming fascist dictatorship gripped me and the rest of the country.

 

Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think that a very similar nightmare would take place 40 years later in the Congress of the United States, just two miles from my home, when hundreds of insurrectionists, incited by a Republican president, attacked the Capitol with much bloodier consequences.

 

Both attempted coups shared the same aim: crushing the will of the people. And the same ones who supported wrestling power by abusive force a year ago are trying to do the same with abusive laws today.

 

In 2021, more than 440 voter suppression laws were introduced in 49 states. Of those, at least 34 have been enacted in 19 states. They all seek to make it as hard as possible for people of color to vote.

 

Examples abound. In states with large Latino populations, such as Florida, Arizona and Texas, my community faces intimidation, harassment and abusive demands of proof of citizenship. In Texas, it’s especially hard for Spanish speakers to vote, mistakes in revisions of voter rolls that end up with the elimination of Latino last names proliferate, and options such as 24-hour voting and voting drop boxes are eliminated.

 

In 2021, more than 440 voter suppression laws were introduced in 49 states. Of those, at least 34 have been enacted in 19 states. They all seek to make it as hard as possible for people of color to vote.

 

Arizona has enacted three voter suppression laws just this year, including the imposition of ever more onerous proof of citizenship. Florida and Georgia, after making it much harder for Latinos, Blacks and low-income people to vote, have banned offering water and food to people waiting in line to vote.

 

The boldness of the enemies of the right to vote seems to have no bounds. According to a study by the group Protect Democracy, Republican legislators in at least 14 states have enacted 23 laws that empower state officials to take control of county election boards and strip secretaries of state of their executive powers. Protect Democracy adds that more than 200 bills would allow state legislatures to “politicize, criminalize or interfere with elections”.

 

In other words, these Republican legislators adjudicate themselves the dictatorial power to modify or reject any result that they disapprove of.

 

Voter suppression devastatingly impacts my and other communities of color. Studies reveal that onerous voter suppression laws sow confusion, make the wait to vote much longer, foster apathy and distrust in the elections system, and overall, substantially reduce voter turnout among these communities.

 

Congress’s failure to pass Freedom to Vote: The John Lewis Act, which would outlaw the immense majority of these suppressing statutes, must not discourage us. President Biden and Senate Democrats must resist the unanimous opposition of Republican senators and finally approve this bill to protect the sacred right to vote enshrined in the Constitution.

 

The attempted coup in Spain failed, and its leaders ended up in prison amid popular repudiation. We all must make sure that here in the US the rule of law and the Constitution also prevail. Because the future of our democracy is at stake.

 

 

Javier Sierra writes the monthly bilingual column Sierra & Tierra.

 

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