Washington, DC – United States Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Made the following remarks before the United States Senate in support of the protection of democracy and the expansion of the franchise:
“A year ago today, not far from where we are this afternoon, national terrorists attempted to destroy our democracy.
“They could have succeeded without the police officers who defended our democracy when they were viciously attacked and beaten. First of all, we must salute these officers, and all those who work, day after day, by their side on the Capitol. For their courage, we should all be eternally grateful.
“The January 6 uprising was an attack instigated by the former president who wanted to annul the results of a democratic election. Let’s also understand that inciting the crowd wasn’t the end, and Donald Trump didn’t go quietly at sunset after Biden’s inauguration. The effort to undermine our democracy – to end free and fair elections in America – is underway. Support for the Big Lie is essentially unchanged from a year ago, and a large number of Republicans who said on January 6 that they were done with Donald Trump have returned to him twelve months longer. late. The only reason the crowd isn’t here today is because Donald Trump hasn’t called them back.
“Now it’s our job to make sure that another attack like this, or whatever, never succeeds. There will be more to say on these issues in the days to come.
“In my opinion, protecting the vote is the first step in protecting democracy. A guiding principle for this Senate must be that, while politics can guide a citizen’s vote, it should never determine whether they are allowed to vote. To act otherwise would undermine the very foundations of a representative democracy.
“Empower voters with a system built on integrity and accountability. A system that promotes participation instead of discouraging it. A system with a history of bipartisanship. This is the kind we have in my home state of Oregon. Oregon believes in the right to vote so strongly that everyone receives a ballot right at home.
“I am proud to say that I was the first United States Senator elected in a postal election. At the time, it was Republicans pushing to expand postal voting. A Democratic governor even vetoed a draft mail-in vote bill in 1995. Right after I was elected Republicans shifted, and mail-in voting was suddenly bad, bad, bad.
“It all changed again a few months later when Gordon Smith, a republic in eastern Oregon, became the second senator elected in a mail-order election.
“Voters loved it so much, a ballot measure so that Oregon’s election was all voted by mail with 70 percent of the vote in 1998.”
“Oregon’s experiment with postal voting began forty years ago with a few local elections in Linn County, a predominantly rural county in the western part of the state. He grew and grew from there. Election officials have learned that when you let people vote at home, turnout goes up and costs go down.
“One of the biggest supporters of Oregon’s home voting system was the late Dennis Richardson, who served as Oregon’s secretary of state. Dennis was a Republican with a capital-capital R. He was about as conservative as he could get, but in Trump’s day when people criticized the Oregon election or told lies about fraud, Dennis always stood up and erased the record. He even wrote to Donald Trump in 2017 that, quote, “we are convinced that the voter fraud in the election last November did not take place in Oregon.”
“In every election, Oregon youth watch their parents vote around the kitchen tables, inspiring the next generation of engaged voters. Voting at home gives you the opportunity to be more informed. If there’s an initiative on the ballot or a race that you haven’t researched, you can take the time to explore the options. When you are finished, your ballot is placed in a secure envelope and you sign the outside.
“For me, that’s when I go to the Sellwood branch of the Multnomah County Public Library, put my ballot in the ballot box and go home. No long lines, no glitchy touchscreen systems. No worries whatsoever.
“A recent analysis in the Election Law Journal indicated that of the 50 states, voting is easiest in Oregon. We have some of the highest participation rates in the country. Oregon has also been a leader in terms of increasing turnout among black and Latino voters. Voter registration is automatic – as easy as a trip to the DMV.
“I have been pushing for universal home voting legislation since 2002. I have a bill called the Vote at Home Act that would give every American the right to vote like my neighbors and I do in Oregon, y including automatic check-in. I guarantee you it would be a national success.
“Letting people vote at home is also the best defense against some of the most insidious methods of voter suppression. For example, what we’ve seen over the past few years – state and local governments shutting down polling stations, especially those that serve black and Latino voters – is absolutely unforgivable. Nowadays, in some areas, Republicans make it illegal to give food and water to people in line to vote.
“No one should have to stand in line for hours. It shouldn’t be a test of physical endurance – without food and water. No one should have to wonder if they will be able to vote if they step out of the queue to go to the bathroom. No one should have to sacrifice an entire day to participate in their own democracy.
“That’s why I also introduced the Long Line Persons Act, the POLL Act. This bill says state governments must ensure that anyone who votes in person can do so within 30 minutes. Anyone who has to wait longer than this can continue. If they win, it’s $ 50 for waiting more than 30 minutes, and $ 50 more for every hour after that.
“Free advice to states that don’t want to be affected by these sanctions, the best way to make sure no one has to stand in line for hours is to let them vote at home.
“It’s not just Oregon that votes by mail. If you need another example, let me point you to a group called the United States Armed Forces. Most military personnel and their families vote by mail in every federal election. It has been like this for decades.
“The bottom line is that the Oregon system works. This increases voter turnout. This reduces the costs of organizing elections. This helps voters to be better informed. It is a safe and secure approach. And if you resist secure and efficient elections with a higher turnout, then you are suppressing democracy in America. Oregon is leading the way in preserving America.
“I will end this afternoon on a personal note:
“My German family who fled their homeland were deeply rooted in the society of that country, as my great-grandfather was a member of parliament and sat on the Berlin city council.
“My family was forced, as Jews, to flee from the fascists who had taken control of their democracy. They fled to America as the last beacon of freedom. With this freedom, my father chose to serve in our army which fought German fascism and was recognized for his unique contributions.
“If my father were alive today, he would say to us, ‘Senators make sure that the light of America’s Liberty Lighthouse never goes out.’ “