For the last few years, I have had the honor and privilege to wake up every day with a single purpose — to fight for voting rights for all and to ensure every lawful ballot is counted.
Even as our nation is gripped by a global pandemic, a struggling economy and a president spreading lies and disinformation about voting, we continue to fight in courtrooms around the country to ensure fair elections.
My legal team’s victories this election cycle have included striking down unfair voter ID laws, ensuring voters are not disenfranchised based on the consistency of their signatures and extending absentee ballot receipt deadlines. We have ensured voters can fix technical errors on their mail-in ballots and can utilize community ballot collection at a time of increasingly unreliable mail service.
My team successfully fought to undo Republican dirty tricks to mislead voters. We blocked Republican efforts to ban ballot drop boxes, reduce mail-in voting and increase challengers at the polls. We unrigged maps drawn to advance purely partisan interests and struck down racial gerrymanders disadvantaging Black voters.
We did not win every case or prevent every act of voter suppression. In some cases, we failed entirely. In others, we achieved only partial success. As a whole, we won more than we lost and more than I expected when I first started writing about our efforts.
Each loss is painful, really painful. Each time we failed to convince a judge, it felt like we failed voters. Each time we lost a case, voters lost their voice in our democracy. I live with that every day. To stay accountable, I publish on the front page of Democracy Docket, in real time, our total case count and where we have had a positive impact. In the run-up to the election, I tweet the same information every single day.
When we win a case, I still wonder whether we are doing enough to protect voters. When we lose a case, I despair about what we could have done differently.
As we get closer to the election, I sense an increasing impulse among many progressives to simply give up on the courts.
I fully understand the anxiety that people feel right now. I know how big the stakes are. And I am not blind to the effect Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have had on our federal judiciary — including the U.S. Supreme Court.
The question is: what do we do today as our democracy hangs in the balance?
Unlike some, I don’t have the luxury of giving up, or being a critic.
I cannot retreat, reassess and defer the fight for another day. With elections upon us, I cannot avoid litigating consequential cases with important outcomes.
Nor would I want to. It is the honor of my life to be able to stand up in court and fight for every lawful vote to be counted — particularly votes our election system too often discards with little thought.
I have no use for the professional cynics who throw verbal stones from the sidelines and relish the opportunity to say “all is lost.” And for those who urge that we move cautiously, wait and reassess, I ask: for how long and at what cost? How many ballots do we permit to remain uncounted before we fight for them in court? How many elections do we allow to pass without fair rules for voters?
The most common question I am asked is, “What people can do to help?” Here is my answer: start by rejecting the cynics and naysayers. We cannot allow the fear of losing in court deter us from fighting hard for justice. We must be willing to win or lose under the glare of an attentive public.
If we are afraid to stand up and challenge what we know is wrong, we only embolden the spread of voter suppression. And if we sit back, biding our time for a better moment to fight, the message to voters will be clear: you are on your own for now.
More than 50 years ago, the Supreme Court affirmed that eligible citizens have a constitutional right to vote and “to have their votes counted.”
“No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.”
Now more than ever, we must stand up to protect voting rights and ensure every vote is counted.
Please join me in our fight for democracy!