Voting: A powerful tool

2/18/2021, 6 p.m.
Our nation is in a state of disgrace because of the spineless Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

Our nation is in a state of disgrace because of the spineless Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

In one of the most critical decisions regarding our nation and our democracy, 43 Republicans in the Senate caved to the power or pressure of Donald Trump and put their own political ambitions over the good of the country in voting to acquit the former president during his second impeachment trial.

Despite overwhelming evidence, including their own experiences, they refused to find Mr. Trump guilty of inciting the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The mob terrorized people, killed a Capitol Police officer, wounded many others, destroyed property and threatened to assassinate the vice president and the speaker of the house.

They did it, they said, because Mr. Trump told them to come to Washington and stop the Senate from certifying the Electoral College vote determining Democrat Joe Biden the winner of the November presidential election.

Mr.Trump, a self-centered racist, misogynist and xenophobe who never should have been elected to the most honored and exalted position in the United States, pathetically still believes he should be president. He incited the insurrection to try to remain in office.

He also has in his pocket the hypocritical Sen. Mitch McConnell, the former Senate majority leader, who, moments after voting to acquit Mr. Trump, gave an impassioned floor speech declaring him responsible for the insurrection. That isn’t leadership.

Sen. McConnell and all of the Republicans who turned their backs on America to kiss Mr. Trump’s ring one more time are sure to face the retribution of voters at the ballot box when they face primary challenges and are up for re-election.

Our democracy will not be safe until Mr. Trump and others, including Sen. McConnell, are held to account.

Voting is a powerful tool to effect social change.

It is so powerful that Southern states, including Virginia, instituted poll taxes and literacy tests to keep Black people from voting and dismantling the systems of oppression needed for white supremacy to thrive.

Even after losing the November election, Mr. Trump and his Republican supporters and lawyers sought to nullify election results in states where sizeable margins of Black and brown voters turned out and gave President Biden the win.

Despite their unsuccessful legal challenges, they haven’t given up. Mr. Trump’s rabid backers are still going crazy. Conservative lawmakers have introduced more than 165 bills in 33 states that would restrict voting rights. As a rationale, they parrot Mr. Trump’s racist and baseless claims of voter fraud and irregularities — lies — that provoked the seditionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Enter now, Virginia state Sen. Jennifer McClellan of Richmond and Delegate Marcia Price of Newport News. We give these two Democrats, both members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, major kudos for their foresight and leadership in sponsoring the Voting Rights Act of Virginia.

The Senate measure, now headed to Gov. Ralph S. Northam for his signature into law, aims to head off voter suppression, intimidation and discrimination that future state and local election officials might use to subvert or interfere with voting laws and practices.

The bills require changes to local voting laws and regulations be pre-cleared with the state attorney general’s office or advertised in advance for public comment and evaluated for their impact on Black, Indigenous and communities of color.

It also prohibits localities from influencing elections by diluting or abridging the rights of voters from a protected class, which includes Black and brown people. And it requires that voting materials be printed in languages other than English if certain criteria are met.

The state attorney general or affected individuals may sue to challenge any discriminatory policies.

We applaud Sen. McClellan and Delegate Price for including in the measure what we call the anti-Trumper provision. Any person who goes against official policy or procedure and fails or refuses to allow a qualified voter to cast a ballot, or willfully fails or refuses to count or report the vote of a qualified voter, would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each affected voter.

In Mr. Trump’s world, he tried to get officials in at least five states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania — to nullify the election and not count the legitimately cast ballots of hundreds of thousands of voters.

If an elected or appointed official in Virginia is struggling with the difference between right and wrong, perhaps knowing he or she is facing a fine of $1,000 for each affected voter will make them do the right thing.

It is unfortunate that because of the weakness of Republicans, the U.S. Senate couldn’t muster enough votes to protect this nation. Thank goodness Virginia has lawmakers who are strong enough — and care enough — to try to protect the voters in this state and the democratic principles they swore an oath to uphold.