My Turn: Preserving the sanctity of the vote

  • DAVID SULLIVAN

Published: 6/10/2021 4:36:05 PM

Like so many others who cherish our democracy, I now fear for it. The insidious creep of misinformation, the dissemination of outright lies, assaults on the rule of law and efforts to erode hard-won voting rights all pose a grave threat to our country.

That is why I joined nearly 100 other elected district attorneys, attorneys general from all over the country in signing onto a statement released this week that condemns current efforts across the country to limit voting rights — and in some cases to criminalize efforts that support voting rights. This is voter suppression, plain and simple.

“Public trust is integral to promoting public safety. These infringements on democracy erode both trust in, as well as the legitimacy of, our public institutions, including the justice system,” reads the call to action issued Monday by the organization Fair And Just Prosecution, of which I am a member. “By further fracturing already frayed bonds of trust, these newly enacted and proposed voting restriction will compromise our ability to protect the communities we serve. And in too many instances, these changes appear to be driven by a deeply concerning effort to disenfranchise communities of color.”

Voting is fundamental to a healthy democracy and an engaged citizenry. We should be making it easier to vote, not throwing roadblocks in the way. Especially at this critical juncture in our country, we need to more voices, not fewer, heard at ballot boxes in every state in our nation.

The FJP letter urges Congress to give “serious and immediate consideration” to the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, bills that would restore and strengthen federal oversight of state laws that restrict U.S. citizens’ ability to vote.

I urge lawmakers to pass these acts.

From a law enforcement perspective, there is no reason to criminalize efforts to make voting easier and more accessible. In fact, we signers of the Fair and Just Prosecution letter believe these measures will make our communities less safe.

“As prosecutors and law enforcement leaders we deplore these efforts to criminalize good faith participation in the electoral process. Our resources must instead remain focused on the serious and very real crimes that impact communities and families every day,” the letter reads. The bevvy of new voting laws “restrict our liberty and expand the cost and size of the criminal justice system without any evidence-based justification.”

I’m far from alone in the Commonwealth in joining with others to voice our concerns; Other signers include Attorney General Maura Healey, Norfolk DA Michael Morrissey, Middlesex DA Marian Ryan, Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins and Berkshire DA Andrea Harrington.

To see the full letter and the list of signatories, visit this link on the FJP website.

I grew up in household where the adage “Democracy is a participatory sport” was quite familiar. Voting was ingrained in my family from an early age. With record turnouts in our 2020 elections, the last thing we should do is stifle the many positive changes made to encourage voters to cast ballots. Some of those changes lead to voters sitting at the kitchen table with children or grandchildren, filling out their ballots and encouraging new generations of voters.

I’m proud to put my name to a letter that aims to restore integrity to our democracy by seeking to preserve the sanctity of the vote. It is a precious right that must be preserved for all.

David E. Sullivan is the Northwestern District Attorney, encompassing Hampshire and Franklin counties and the Worcester County town of Athol.

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