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Is our democratic system under threat?

The democratic process’s foundation is the people electing their leaders, which depends upon citizens who are willing and able to vote. It should be easy for citizens to elect their leaders. But is this the system we have in America, or is our system threatened?

We will give you some facts and let you decide

At least 9 states enacted 12 bills that modify state courts’ role in future election cases. For example, legislation passed making it harder for judges to extend polling hours to accommodate voters (Georgia) and prohibited judges from altering or suspending state election laws (Kansas, Kentucky, and Texas).

The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law released a report stating that in 2021, 14 states have enacted 22 laws that restrict voting access, making it more difficult for Americans to vote. According to the report, “the United States is on track to far exceed its most recent period of significant voter suppression,” which was in 2011 when 14 states enacted 19 restrictive voting laws. For example, state legislatures have proposed legislation to suppress voting by disallowing mail ballots upon request, requiring more proof of identity, reducing the number of polling places and the number of early voting days.

In many states there is an effort to elect Secretaries of State and or election officials who favor one party over another, instead of these offices being impartial. And legislation has been introduced to reduce the power of election officials to oversee elections.

Based upon all the above factors the League of Women Voters is concerned there is a significant threat to our democratic elections system. Is there anything we can do to lessen the threat?

Here what are some key steps we can take

1.Restore voting rights laws: Contact your US Senators Feinstein and Padilla to urge passage of the Voting Rights Act and For the People bills.

2.Register to vote: Make sure everyone you know who is at least 18 and a citizen is registered to vote at their current address. Register online at https://registertovote.ca.gov

3.Communicate with your elected officials: Let your elected officials know your concerns and priorities. Their job is to represent the public, but how will they do that effectively if they do not hear from us on a regular basis? The League website lists the websites for all our elected official in Sonoma County. Visit www.lwvsonom.org and use the Government Websites list under the Resources tab to contact local elected officials.

4.Vote in every election: How often do you vote? Sometimes people register to vote, but don’t actually vote when an election comes along. Local elections are just as important as national elections. Local elected leaders make many decisions that affect our daily lives such as water rates, local taxes, the number of fire fighters, how many homes will be built in our community, how money for homeless services will be spent, what mental health services will be offered, bus routes, and other transportation issues, etc. By voting you elect the leaders making these important decisions.

5.Be informed: Get reliable election information from the Brennan Center for Justice, the League Of Women Voters of CA Voter’s Edge, the CA Secretary of State Office and the Sonoma County Voter Registrar’s office. At these websites you will find out how to register, polling locations, drop box location, election dates, non-partisan candidate information, and ballot proposition information. Visit the League website for information on candidate forums and pros & cons presentations on ballot measures.

6.Find reliable information: Find reliable resources to spot fake news, like www.Snopes.com, www.FactCheck.org, and https://www.politico.com/. Watch a video on What is Fake News at the League’s YouTube Channel.

7.Find out what happened: Election results are posted at https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/CRA/Registrar-of-Voters/. Follow election results and analyze what happened. Decide how you can make a difference in the next election.

Stay tuned for more tips on how we all can take steps to strengthen our democratic system, including the lost art of civil discourse and serving your community at a local level.

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