IndyKids reporter Neena Sapkota, age 12 interviews Sean Morales-Doyle regarding the recent slew of voting rights restrictions across the United States. Sean is the Acting Director of the Voting Rights & Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.
Neena: Why is it critically important for each American to have an equal voice in elections?
Sean: The idea of democracy is that the government reflects the will of the people. Our government cannot truly do that if there are some people whose voices are left out of the conversation. If we want our government to serve everyone, we need to make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in our democracy and have their voice heard.
Neena: What does the Brennan Center do to promote and support voting rights?
Sean: We research and design policies that will help voters. We advocate for governments to adopt these policies, by lobbying in Congress and state legislatures, and by working with the officials that actually run our elections. We go to court to fight back against bad policies. Finally, we work to educate and inform the public, and shape the public discussion of voting rights by speaking with the media and publishing resources and reports.
Neena: Why are some Republican state legislatures trying to restrict the right to vote?
Sean: Unfortunately, many of the restrictive voting laws being passed by state legislatures seem to be a backlash against record high turnout in 2020, including by voters of color. In other words, people in power seem to be worried about more voters being engaged in our democracy and what that will mean for their ability to maintain their power. That is of course not why they say they are passing these laws. Instead, many of the lawmakers who are pushing these bills use the lie that the 2020 election was “stolen” from former President Donald Trump to justify the laws they are passing. It has always been the case that people trying to restrict voting rights falsely claim that they are trying to stop fraud or corruption.
What are your thoughts on the For the People Act and the fact that it was blocked by Senate Republicans?
Sean: The For the People Act is a fantastic piece of legislation that could produce transformative change in our democracy. We should not give up hope that it may still pass. The bill is numbered as H.R. 1 in the House and S. 1 in the Senate for a reason–it is the top priority in Congress because the members of Congress know it is the top priority of their constituents. If we continue to show them that, we may be able to convince them to act.
Neena: Do you believe that Biden is fulfilling his campaign promises? Do you think he could be doing more to protect voting rights in the U.S.?
Sean: President Biden has repeatedly emphasized that voting rights are a top priority, and his administration has taken a number of steps to protect voting rights since he came into office. But there is absolutely more to be done. Congress needs to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and President Biden has an important role to play in advocating for them to do that.