Guest Commentary: In Support of the For the People Act


By Steve Murphy

(Editor’s Notes: The following remarks were delivered Thursday at the rally with Representative John Garamendi.)

Welcome to the Davis Rally for Voting Rights.  Glad to see you all. 

My name is Steve Murphy, a volunteer with Indivisible Yolo, a progressive activist organization responsible for today’s non-partisan event. 

We’re here today with Congressman Garamendi and our allies in the fight to pass S-1 to thank him for his sponsorship of voting rights including HR-1 which passed in the House.  But that’s only half the battle.  To become law, S-1 must pass the Senate and be signed by a very willing President Biden.

To be clear, non-partisan does NOT mean bi-partisan.  It is defined literally as ‘impartial’ and ‘unbiased’ …more on that when we cover gerrymandering.

To me S-1, the For the People Act is about infrastructure. Not the roads and bridges stuff.  Rather, the infrastructure of democracy itself.

That infrastructure of democracy is under threat and needs immediate attention every bit as much as traditional infrastructure — and even more urgently. It is in need of a major refit – with more than 17 states enacting laws to suppress voter turnout.  Rather than building on the highest voter turnout on record last November, cynical power brokers are trying to roll back the clock to an era many of us are too young to remember: Jim Crow.  And the gathering storm of partisan gerrymandering once the 2020 Census is released will just put that much more strain on the principles of majority rule undergirding our democracy.

And every element of the progressive agenda is under threat unless those cracks in our democracy are addressed now … in this Congress … at this moment.  Social justice. Economic justice. Climate change. All hang in the balance. That infrastructure of democracy cannot be left in shambles or leave people behind. Nor should it fall victim to partisan politics.

Every eligible voter must be able to participate equally. Every voter needs to be free to choose their representatives.

In non-partisan terms, S-1 bolsters the infrastructure of democracy and large majorities of voters including folks from both parties are very much in favor each of the key elements:

  1. Protecting Voting rights.  The ability for all eligible voters to have unfettered access to exercise that right is fundamental to a democracy.   Any attempts to make it more difficult should be questioned and any designed to disadvantage Black, brown, indigenous and youth voters must be eliminated.
  2. Ending gerrymandering.  A horrible practice that, in effect, let’s politicians choose their voters rather than voters choose their politicians. The nation needs to follow California’s lead on this.  And this is doubly urgent as the 2020 Census is being released and the maps are being drawn soon.
  3. Getting money out of politics.
  4. Putting ethics back in.

Bi-partisan is a means, arguably a preferable one, to a political end. But the recent vote in the Senate to not even permit a debate on the S-1 bill (50-50) demonstrates unequivocally that a ‘bi-partisan’ answer to protecting voting rights is not a viable path forward.

And when a lack of bi-partisanship results in the failure to debate much less create any legislation, Congress is, in effect, not doing its job. It’s not up to the President to do this via executive order (he can’t) or the Supreme Court

No, it’s up to us! Congress listens to public opinion. So as citizens, we must rise up, insist on majority rule and a path forward not borne in bi-partisanship but in non-partisanship.

This country was founded and the Constitution framed to provide for majority rule — not minority obstruction.

So, non-partisan?  Impartial – yes.  Unbiased – by definition.

So what’s in our way of non-partisan progress?

The bill has passed the House so now the Senate must act:

  1. First, finalize S-1 substance — with 0 folks from the minority party even willing to engage in debate, it falls to the majority party to hammer out the final text.   As Indivisibles, our position is there’s room for discussion but in the absence of any bi-partisan participation the bill should not be watered down to appease false arguments about ‘voter fraud’ made plausible by the BIG LIE about the 2020 election.
  2. Then address the elephant in the room — the filibuster  As Indivisibles, we prefer to see the filibuster end altogether.

As Californians (with 25MM+ eligible voters) we already have less of a voice per capita in the Senate to begin with.  That’s a Constitutionally-enabled minority power that lets Wyoming (with 445K adults) have just as much power in the Senate.  That’s more than 50:1!!

And the filibuster — which is just a Senate rule; not a Constitutional mandate —  amplifies that minority by insisting on 60 votes for cloture — and you don’t even need to show up to object. Never mind that this rule let’s a small minority obstruct the majority without limits!  Nor that it’s been used so many times to block civil rights and voting rights.  Just fix the damn filibuster — either reform it now just for voting rights or eliminate it in its entirety.  How it’s reformed is up to the Senate! What’s not acceptable is letting the filibuster defer fixing our democratic infrastructure.

For those who worry about what happens when the majority party changes so ‘we’ are on the wrong side, I say ‘make elections fair’ and then go out and win them.  As activists engaged in promoting progressive policies and who work hard to get out the vote for politicians who will pursue those policies, the fight to protect voting rights is our highest priority ….

In short, we must not get so caught up on what might happen that we can’t address what is right in front of us ….

  1. Finally, the timing is urgent …. If politics is the art of the possible …. S-1 is more clearly possible today than at any time to date and yet it’s a narrow window.  Experts say that won’t be true after the next recess.  We need to get this done NOW… not later in the fall .. or next year ….

We believe Majority Leader Schumer when he says “failure is not an option” — and we’re holding him to that. That means our goal is simple: we want a vote on the Senate floor on a filibuster rules change so that the Senate can pass S.1.

We also know that today both President Biden and Vice-President Harris are pressing the case for voting rights with groups in Atlanta and DC.  So please don’t give up — call your Senators daily.  It’s easy .. and we provide a script on our linktree or on our flyers.

And, today, we have our very own Congressman, John Garamendi, here to share his thoughts on this important issue and perhaps give us a little inspiration and some insight on what’s happening in Washington.

Welcome, Congressman and thank you again for your support.


About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

36 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: In Support of the For the People Act”

    1. David Greenwald

      The research suggests that they probably do not lower voter participation. Although there is a bad history of the use of IDs and poll taxes to prevent Blacks from voting, that should not be ignored. I see voter ID as a bargaining chip rather than a true issue at this point.

      1. David Greenwald

        This is an issue where both sides are really completely irrational. Republicans have been demanding voter IDs for years despite a complete lack of evidence that there is any sort of widespread problem (a solution in search of a problem). Democrats have resisted even though IDs are standard operating procedure, the evidence suggests that they don’t reduce participation, and you could use them to replace registration requirements.

        Also the debate over vote by mail makes no sense either, VBM has traditionally heavily favored Republicans, but Trump managed to completely flip the issue and change the debate even though each side is going against their own interest now.

        1. Bill Marshall

          You are so completely wrong on almost all counts… you were correct on one…

          … demanding voter IDs for years despite a complete lack of evidence that there is any sort of widespread problem (a solution in search of a problem).

          You also neglected the “other shoe”… same day registration… legal in CA for a couple of years or so…

          Maybe you should require photo ID before allowing anyone to post on the VG… each time they post…

        2. Bill Marshall

          Democrats have resisted even though IDs are standard operating procedure, the evidence suggests that they don’t reduce participation, and you could use them to replace registration requirements.

          Three right there:  ID’s are NOT SOP, at least in CA, @ the polls; evidence does show they reduce or hinder participation (and delay the voting process); they are fully inappropriate for use as ‘proof of registration’, eligibility to vote, once you enter a polling place for a given election.  That should be good for starters…

          And it would likely kill, or impair, same day registration, and VBM.  Fraud might well increase, for reasons I stated earlier.

          Surprised you seem to favor the ‘photo voter ID’… your apparent ‘remedy’ would likely make things worse… for enfranchisement… with de minimus/nada benefit to the integrity of elections.

          I say this as someone who distrusts all political parties, and who has worked the polls nearly every election in the last 25 years, and first voted ~ the time you started losing your baby teeth… (or sooner)… I first voted in 1972… Mom was a poll worker for years, starting approx. in 1960.


          1. David Greenwald

            I meant they were standard operating procedure in other sectors of society, not voting.

            I don’t favor voter ID, however, the research makes it less odious than some have let.

  1. Ron Glick

    Joe Manchin and the Dems are ready to move on Voter ID. In fact Manchin’s compromise proposal included it. KO is correct, its popular but the devil is in the details.

    The reality is that voting rights is a lot like Davis housing. The opposition claims they are for housing people yet they find a way to oppose every proposal. Likewise, the Republicans claim they want to improve the voting system but have been using that as an excuse to make it harder to vote in ways that hinder the people most likely to vote against them.

    Republican Kabuki on voting rights is transparent and made more so by Joe Manchin’s compromise proposal.

    1. Bill Marshall

      its popular but the devil is in the details.

      Based on past law, the photo ID (if they go there) needs to be free of any charges… any charges would be likely deemed a “poll tax”… same for updating it as folk age… usually, appearance changes more than somewhat from 18 to 88.

      Currently, at least in CA, the only requirement to provide ID is when initially registering to vote… not each and every election.

      Kiss VBM goodbye, as no good way to provide photo ID…

      Currently it is sufficient for a registered voter to sign the roster, asserting under penalty of perjury, that they are who they say they are, are eligible to vote, and their residence address.

      New cottage industry… fake ID’s… never happen, right?  Ask any bartender or liquor store owner… poll workers supposed to verify the ID hasn’t been altered, ‘manufactured’?

      There is no evidence of significant voter fraud… the current attempts for greater controls comes from “sore losers”, hiding behind the deceptive, malevolent facade of security/transparency, when their real goals are to exclude those they perceive as antithetical to their politics… look at which party has introduced the legislation, and what party dominates those legislatures and also have a governor of the same party… good movie possibility: “Those who would impose their ‘evil empire’, strikes back”…

      Some say it goes back to Jim Crow laws… more like the DT’s…

  2. Alan Miller

    For the People Act

    Almost universally, I can spot a fraudulent movement when it is titled in such a way that says absolutely zero nothing regarding what it is about.

      1. Ron Glick

        But the GOP has total control of the politics of both Florida and Texas so its makes you wonder what they are afraid of.

        Trump lost the popular vote by 6 million votes. The GOP has lost the popular vote in all but one presidential election since 1992. The trend is not the GOP’s friend. A better argument is that voter suppression is the only GOP path to victory going forward and they know it.

        1. Keith Olsen

          A better argument is that voter suppression is the only GOP path to victory going forward and they know it.

          No, that’s your argument, not the better argument.  Why is it so hard to supply an I.D. in order to show that it’s actually you voting under your name?  We all know the answer to that and Democrats do too if they were to be honest about it.

          1. Don Shor

            Why is it so hard to supply an I.D. in order to show that it’s actually you voting under your name?

            I haven’t had to show an ID since I registered to vote decades ago. I have voted absentee for more than 25 years, when I was required to start doing so where I live (no polling places nearby). A signature check is all that’s required. Why should someone be required to show an ID over and over again if their original registration was valid?

        2. Edgar Wai

          Re Don:

          You were thinking in terms of you yourself knowing that you registered, but not from the perspective of a volunteer booth operator judging whether you are a registered voter.

          The security concern is similar to trying to withdraw money from your own account. It is not about how a bank teller may know that you are the account holder.

        3. Keith Olsen

          Just signature verification opens up a whole other can of worms.

          Google has pages of these.

        4. Ron Glick

          Is voter I.D. your only argument? The Democrats are willing to address that. Joe Manchin is willing to address that. So without that what else is your argument?

  3. Bill Marshall

    I meant they were standard operating procedure in other sectors of society, not voting.
    I don’t favor voter ID, however, the research makes it less odious than some have let.

    As you might say, let’s unpack this:

    I meant they were standard operating procedure in other sectors of society, not voting.

    given the context of the article, sounds like ‘back pedaling’ considering that you posted,

    Democrats have resisted even though IDs are standard operating procedure (7:24 post)… 

    I recommend you say what you mean what you post, and post what you mean… I’m still working on that, too…

    I don’t favor voter ID… (yet), 

    Although there is a bad history of the use of IDs and poll taxes to prevent Blacks from voting, that should not be ignored… 

    Another poster wrote,

    In fact Manchin’s compromise proposal included it. 

    You and that poster should think of the meaning of the term “compromised”… and the response was,

    I see voter ID as a bargaining chip rather than a true issue at this point.

    Really?  Can one bargain or compromise on a basic tenet?  Those who do, are suspect… and are perhaps “compromised” as to ethics…

  4. Edgar Wai

    What are the specifics of voter ID that people complain about?

    If you want majority rule, voter legitimacy is fundamental.

    And keep in mind that democracy is not about majority rule. Majority rule is a conflict resolution choice. If there is no conflict in letting individuals choose, then imposing majority rule becomes anti liberty.

    People who regard democracy meaning majority rule are fundamentally anti liberty.

  5. Edgar Wai

    Can a student choose to use their State ID or driver’s license as the ID?

    A hunting license is issued by the government, a student ID is not. It is not strange that hunting license is acceptable but not student ID.

      1. Edgar Wai

        What is the actual concern about hunting license vs student ID?

        There is no rule to take for granted that all ID-type cards issued by the government are of the same level of security for identification. For example, the university won’t accept a student trying to use a student ID issued by another university for the sake of registration. Then need something like State ID, Passport, or Birth Certificate.

        What is the argument?


  6. Chris Griffith

    Anyone who tries to “modernize” or change something as simple and straightforward as “Take a ballot, tick your preferences, and place in the ballot box for counting” is up to no good. I definitely believe in to keep it simple stupid principle 🤗

    1. Bill Marshall

      Chris G… if you include all the current rules/rubrics, and include VMB, ‘somewhat early voting’ (I have some reservations on “too early” voting), same day registration, with all the current safeguards, I agree that the KISS principle is correct… if not, we do not ‘share common ground’…

      Hunting licenses?  Really? Why not library cards, business cards, fishing licenses, etc.?  Any of those are ‘way’ out of line, as none have photos…  ID cards in lieu of registration? Lu-dicrous…

      An “uber” person might opine we need fingerprints, DNA, tattoos, microchip implants…

      Another “uber” person might reject registration, any acknowledgement of possible perjury, other fraud… license to vote early and often… no statement of name, address (more important now that we have to ‘suck up’ local district elections), citizenship/other status as to qualifications…

      I fully reject both of those approaches… vehemently!

      CA has pretty much the rules and regs that I believe to be “just right”… I see no reason to change… but here is the “rub”… SCOTUS has repeatedly decided that voting rules be the discretion of the States, with some limitations (‘poll tax’, race based, etc.)… SB1 might well be considered “unconstitutional” as it is ‘legislation’, NOT a ‘constitutional amendment’…

      So, we have a challenge… what might be ethical or morally right, is not “the law”… yet SB1 does attempt to thwart States going ‘backwards’… depending on your view… or party affiliation.  I say “attempt” as it could well be judged ‘unconstitutional’.

      SB1 has, as the author of the article points out, FOUR intended elements… not just ‘voter ID’…

      Protecting Voting rights….
      Ending gerrymandering….
      Getting money out of politics.
      Putting ethics back in…

      The first two intentions I pretty much agree with… constitutional or not… CA has made good progress on those…

      The last two are very aspirational, and have the snowballs’ chance in Hell of becoming reality… I support the concepts, but, I’m a realist… most of the time…

      1. Steve Murphy

        Bill … I agree that the first two elements on my list are the most important with respect to protecting  representative democracy and were the focus of my comments Thursday.  But don’t think “snowball’s chance in hell’ is accurate unless you accept conventional wisdom that the filibuster will prevent all four elements from getting a vote at all.  Given the reality that the only way forward is is with 50 Dem votes and a modified/eliminated filibuster, I do think there are some important elements with respect to getting money out of politics (or at least shining a light on the sources of dark money) and perhaps even a some of the ethics elements (like making Presidential candidates release their tax records) that can be incorporated into a slimmed down S-1.   Seems like the Dems need to get in a room and hash out what’s doable … and then push the filibuster modification/elimination.   What Biden says today in Philly might be a clue … what came out of the press office was not exactly encouraging.

        1. Keith Olsen

          and then push the filibuster modification/elimination. 

          Watch out what you wish for.  Remember the Reid Rule.  That came back to bite Democrats in the behind.

          It wasn’t all that long ago that Democrats used the filibuster all of the time.  How they forget.

          1. David Greenwald

            For me the process issue is more important. It should not take 60 votes to pass simple legislation.

        2. Bill Marshall

          Steve M… had been looking theoretical… was not thinking of the filibuster thingy… even with that gone, I still don’t think we’d get past # 1 and # 2…

          Too many, both parties, have too much “invested” in #3 and #4…

          Unfortunately, the filibuster thingy means you are likely right on current chances for # 1 and # 2… what I’m seeing in accounts that Congress folk will trade their ‘virtues’ for ‘a consideration’… supposedly a technique of the “oldest profession”… what some see as ‘compromise’ leads to being “compromised”.


  7. Keith Olsen

    Kamala Harris quote on photocopying one’s own I.D:

    HARRIS: “I don’t think that we should underestimate what that could mean. Because in some people’s mind, that means, well, you’re going to have to, Xerox or photocopy your ID to send it in to prove you are who you are. Well, there are a whole lot of people, especially people who live in rural communities, who don’t — there’s no Kinko’s. There’s no OfficeMax near them. People have to understand that when we’re talking about voter ID laws, be clear about who you have in mind and what would be required of them to prove who they are. Of course people have to prove who they are. But not in a way that makes it almost impossible for them to prove who they are.”

    She sure doesn’t give people any credit for having any common sense.  There are several things people have to do that requires a photocopy of their I.D.  Somehow they’re smart enough to get it done, even though Harris thinks they’re too inept to do so.

    1. Bill Marshall

      It still means it costs $ to vote… SCOTUS has determined that is a ‘poll tax’, and unconstitutional…

      Oh, as to another point you made,

      “Did you say that when Republicans had the Presidency, the House and the Senate?”

      David can answer for himself… but I’ve been opposed to the filibuster rule since I learned about in HS, about 50 years ago…

        1. Bill Marshall

          Well, OK…   Xeroxing docs… you ever heard of Photoshop?  Real good security in what you espouse…  NOT…

          No more than current…

  8. Edgar Wai

    Basic principles of transparent voting:

    1. Anyone may audit and view basic statistics abouting voting (how many registered, voted, in what method, with what voter credentials, in each neighborhood/district.) Ways to detect if there are too many voters. For example, showing on a map how many people are registered to vote in each household address.

    2. Each person can see how the system recorded their vote so that could verify the system accounted for their vote correctly.

    If the system can do the above (if anyone could verify if there were too many voters, and each voter can verify that their own vote is counted correctly), then there is no benefit to have voter ID.

    If the two conditions are not met, the system can have too many voters and the people would have no means to audit.

    Voting should not be dramatic. If the system just let people routinely vote online with security akin to online banking, society will have a much more up-to-date thermometer of the people’s opinion. The trend also gives people time to audit and flag household addresses with too many voters.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for