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Tucson Opinion: Don't let the state legislature roll back voting rights
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Tucson opinion

Tucson Opinion: Don't let the state legislature roll back voting rights

Ralph Quintana

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

I served four years in the U.S. Army. I spent long stretches overseas away from my family, reached the rank of sergeant faster than most of my recruitment class and injured my back so badly that, by now, I have lost much of the strength and feeling in my legs.

My father served, and my son plans to serve too. I served, as Lincoln famously said, so that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Such a government requires that “the people” are given an opportunity to choose our leaders, to make our voices heard — in short, to vote. That’s the right of all citizens as defined in the Constitution I swore to defend.

And yet now, my own state government is threatening to make it harder for me, and thousands of other veterans with disabilities, to cast our votes, because they are afraid of who we’ll vote for.

We need laws that will make it easier for all eligible voters to cast a ballot, so the people can elect leaders who will deliver the change we want.

I have voted by mail for years and I like the system we have here in Arizona because my disability makes it tough for me to stand in line for a long time.

I also like to be thorough, and voting from home allows me to research all the names on the ballot for a few days and make my choices. After I send back my mail-in ballot, I’m able to call a number to follow up to make sure my ballot was not only received but counted, which I always do.

But some of our state representatives are pushing three big bills that would make it harder to vote by mail.

The first would automatically kick people off the mail-voting list if they miss two election cycles in a row. The second would require people voting by mail to submit copies of their driver’s license or other ID in order to vote. The third narrows the window of time that a voter has to request and return their mail ballot.

What makes me furious is that not only these bills will make it harder for me to vote, but they will cut down on the time my son will have to fill out his ballot while at Basic Training and return it in time to be counted. He is going to risk his life to defend this country, but we’re going to make it nearly impossible for him to vote?

If they become reality, these proposals will not only affect my son and me, but all veterans with disabilities in Arizona, along with Latinos, Native Americans, poor Americans and other groups who are less likely to have ID or vote in every election cycle.

There are similar bills under consideration, some even becoming law, all across the country. This is why we need Congress to act. We need the For the People Act to protect everyone’s right to vote and have their vote counted.

While it wouldn’t fix all of the problems with voting and our democracy, it would help make our system more fair, representative, and accountable to the people.

It would reduce the power of big money in politics and modernize our elections. It would help register people to vote and help more people cast their ballot. And it would stop new restrictions that I am seeing in Arizona and in other states.

I’m thankful Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly agree we must pass the For the People Act. Their support must be steadfast, now is not the time to waver. It’s what they owe Arizona’s thousands of veterans and all the people of Arizona.

Ralph Quintana is a veteran, teacher, and president of the American Federation of Teachers’ Arizona chapter.

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