The State, January 10, 2022
Hilton Head Island Packet, January 10, 2022
Carolina Panorama, January 15, 2022
By Rep. James E. Clyburn and Frank Knapp
Free and fair elections, the underpinning of our democracy, are in danger, and even though they can’t directly cast a ballot, American businesses are among the most concerned.
Several states have proposed or passed laws that threaten democracy by suppressing individuals’ rights to vote, undercutting decision-making authority of local elected and appointed election officials, and establishing the ability to nullify local election results if the powers-that-be don’t like the decision of the voters.
To address this crisis the United States Senate needs to past two pieces of legislation that have already passed the House.
The first, HR-4, which has been renamed the “John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” would require pre-clearance of changes in state voting laws to ensure that legislatures don’t pass discriminatory restrictions on voting.
The second, HR-1, “the For the People Act,” would instruct states to adopt positive steps to provide unfettered access to voting for those legally allowed to cast ballots.
The Senate has struggled to pass these bills because of nearly 100% opposition by Republicans. The Senate filibuster rule requires 60 votes to limit debate and allow for a vote to occur.
The current composition of the Senate is 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with the latter loathe to make any modifications to the filibuster.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act received only one Senate Republican vote to allow debate to move forward on that bill.
West Virginia’s Joe Manchin re-wrote the “For the People Act” to make it more appealing to the GOP. His “Freedom to Vote Act,” however, failed to receive enough Republican votes to even start the debate.
No longer is protecting an unfettered right to vote and respecting the will of the people a bipartisan goal.
Stripping away local governments’ control of elections and giving that power to partisan state legislatures is being employed by those who only care about maintaining political power.
And this has our business community, especially small businesses, worried.
Both of us, one a longtime advocate for small businesses and the other the son of a successful entrepreneur, hear the call to action and are working to elevate those voices.
The American economy is in jeopardy if quick action is not taken to protect our democracy.
It is not a coincidence that the United States has a strong democracy and a thriving entrepreneurial economy that is second to none. The two go hand in hand.
A real democracy is vital to a vibrant entrepreneurial economy in which people know that if they have a good idea and are willing to make sacrifices and work diligently, their ideas can be turned into successful, profitable businesses for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Entrepreneurship and a nation’s entire economy suffer when electoral power is removed from the people allowing for an autocratic government and the politically well-connected to control the business ventures of others.
A national survey of small business owners found great concern for our democracy with 74% supporting Congressional action to protect voting rights.
Four national small business groups – American Sustainable Business Council, Small Business Majority, Main Street Alliance, and Small Business for America’s Future are all urging the Senate to pass voting rights legislation.
Businesses with over 250 employees are also overwhelmingly concerned for democracy and support voting rights bills.
To get this done, businesses support Senate rule changes like a filibuster carveout. Exceptions to the filibuster rule are not uncommon.
The Senate already has over 160 types of legislation or votes that can pass with a simple majority. A filibuster carveout for voting rights would be the most important exception because it will protect our democracy and economy.
Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC) is the U.S. House Majority Whip, and Frank Knapp is the President/CEO/co-founder of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce and a small business owner.