Making Democracy Work: “We the People? »

By Lisa Scott

Independence Day traditions bring families, friends, and communities together to celebrate being American. It’s not traditionally a time to introspect barbecues, ballparks and beaches and enjoy (or hide from) pyrotechnics. But in 2022, the 4th of July came at a time of deep national concern: economic, environmental, legal, governmental and local.

Journalists, experts, scholars and lawyers have weighed in on the Supreme Court’s end-of-term rulings that overturned Roe v. Wade and New York State’s restrictions on the concealed carry of firearms, pushed religion further into public education and severely limited the EPA’s ability to tackle carbon emissions at a time of severe climate change.

The New York Times of July 3 wrote, “The United States appears to be breaking apart into separate nations, with diametrically opposed social, environmental and health policies…The tearing at the seams has been hastened by the six-vote conservative majority on the Court. supreme. , which embraced a muscular federalism of states’ rights.

The Constitution has been mentioned more and more over the past year; some require a literal interpretation, while others wonder what happened to the rights and freedoms of his amendments. 235 years ago, our nation’s founders wrote “We the People” to begin the preamble to the Constitution, but the common foundation of our civic beliefs has been severely eroded.

Your place of residence determines your rights. We are no longer (if ever we were) equal Americans. But the League of Women Voters has and will continue to educate and defend voting rights that exemplify freedom – “the freedom to determine who we are, who we want to be, and who we want to make decisions about our country and our bodies. (Dr. Deborah Turner, President, LWVUS).

At our annual convention in late June, the League of Women Voters of the United States reflected on the new obstacles to voting and the continued attacks on our democracy, and how LWV is working to register new votes, but in particular to “Get Out the Vote”. From 2020 to 2022 (even through the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic) there have been 12 million voter contacts. League efforts have addressed systemic challenges related to suffrage through advocacy, litigation and organizing. The goal was to build confidence in our elections, grow our electorate with fairness, create equity for voter access, and ensure that the community constituency truly reflects our people.

The League’s Vote411.org voter information website was accessed by 5.5 million voters to view their ballot in more than 40,000 races. More than 89,000 candidates have been listed. Voters could check their voter registration, request a mail-in ballot, and review nationwide voting rules.

LWV has argued on a variety of issues, including voter access during Covid-19, the 2020 census, redistricting, money in politics and excessive voter purges. LWV has filed lawsuits in more than half of the states to ensure proper voting notice and processing procedures, access to drop boxes, and better access to mail-in voting. LWV has also joined amicus briefs supporting common sense money in political regulations and intervened in cases to prevent irresponsible election purges.

Our New York State LWV has also been active at the state level, including amicus briefs and litigation, particularly on the NYS redistricting and complications arising from the court demanding congressional districts and of the redesigned NYS Senate, leading to two main dates in 2022 (June 28 and August 23).

LWVUS also continued to focus on protecting and enforcing voting rights in the 117th Congress, which included the People’s Law, the Freedom to Vote Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Along with national voting civil rights partners, LWVUS has supported hundreds of state and local leagues in leading and participating in nationwide actions in support of federal voting rights laws, which resulted in hundreds of actions and thousands of engaged voters. Despite this work, the US Senate failed to advance the debate on the Freedom of the (Combined) Vote: John R. Lewis Act.

In 2022 and beyond, Get Out The Vote efforts need to be bigger, stronger, and even more creative. We can register millions, but if only thousands vote, have we truly empowered voters? Our democracy isn’t based on age, race, gender, or zip code – it’s for everyone, and that’s why we must not only fight back, but lead the charge. It’s not a partisan issue — it’s an American issue. “We the people” should together want to strengthen our democracy and create a more perfect union.

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes informed and active citizen participation in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county or call 631-862-6860.