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Some Veterans Say Republicans are Blocking Their Ability to Vote

Democrats and veterans groups say the bill would expand access to early and mail-in voting, which can make voting easier for disabled veterans

Senators this week left Washington for a month-long summer break after Republicans blocked consideration of a Democratic bill to expand voting access across the nation, arguing that it would give the federal government too much power in local elections that should be controlled by the states.

But some veterans argued that refusing to move the bill forward is actually an attack on those who served in uniform and risked their lives to defend the right to vote. Army veteran Lakiesha Lloyd said her PTSD and chronic pain from nearly a decade in uniform make it impossible for her to vote in person on Election Day. 

“I can not stand in long lines,” she said at a virtual rally on Thursday hosted by Common Defense, an activist group for veterans founded in 2016 to oppose former President Donald Trump. “I can’t be in crowded polling places….I have to early vote. I don’t have another option. I either have to be able to mail in my ballot, or I have to be able to go in person where I can actually feel safe because it’s not crowded, it’s not overwhelming.” 

The For the People Act, which is a top priority for Democrats including President Joe Biden, would expand access to vote by mail and require all 50 states to offer the chance to vote early in federal elections. Senate Democrats are expecting to hold procedural votes on the bill when they return to Washington in mid-September, but Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Wednesday called the legislation a “ridiculous, go-nowhere bill” that “isn’t going to work when we get back.” 

Three Democratic senators who participated in the rally sought to frame Republican blockage of the bill as an attack against the military and veteran community they claim to support. 

“Many veterans are unable to drive to polling places, stand in line for hours, or deal with crowds,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said during the rally. “By standing against voting access, too many politicians are blocking veterans from participating in the very democracy we swore to defend.” 

As of June 21, 17 states have enacted 28 laws this year to restrict access to voting, and more are being considered by state legislatures, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Some examples include restricting which dates people can go to the polls, making it harder to return ballots in drop boxes, and making it illegal to give food and water to people waiting in line to vote.

“They don’t just affect historically disenfranchised populations in our country. They make it harder for veterans, particularly those veterans with disabilities, to vote,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said at the rally. “Disabled veterans rely on mail-in voting and early voting and other pro-voter policies to ensure they’re able to exercise a right that they risked their life for.”

The use of mail-in and early voting increased dramatically during the 2020 presidential election in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. About half of voters cast their ballot by mail in 2020, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Election Data and Science Lab analysis. A quarter voted in person ahead of Nov. 3, while the final quarter voted in person on Election Day. 

Republicans, especially Trump, were suspicious of mail-in voting at the time, making unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud.