Emily’s Weekly Political Scoop: The Split On Voting Rights and Tammy Duckworth

Emily%E2%80%99s+Weekly+Political+Scoop%3A+The+Split+On+Voting+Rights+and+Tammy+Duckworth

Emily Landolfi, Staff Writer

Voting Rights: Ever since the election, the means of voting rights has been debated fervently by the American public and President Joe Biden has dealt with the ongoing pushback. However, his stance remains strong as NPR details that on Tuesday, during a speech in Georgia following the stall of the Democratic Party’s proposed federal legislation, Biden announced he plans to renew his advocacy for congressional action to protect voting rights. A White House official expanded that Biden will support changing the Senate filibuster to make it easier to pass voting bill rights, solidifying the people’s right to vote (Summers). 

 The Guardian details that though this is one of the most significant speeches of Biden’s presidency to date, prominent Georgia civil rights activists have vocalized their interest in seeing action rather than speeches (“Joe Biden to Back Filibuster Rule Change to Push Voting Rights Bill”). BBC further explains the party split on the issue, Democrats calling for a series of new voting reforms while Republican-controlled states have imposed more regulated voting requirements (Zurcher).

Since the White House and both chambers of the US Congress are controlled by Democrats, the party has been passing legislation focused on voting reform efforts at the federal level, a top property of theirs being to restore some of the most powerful mechanisms in the Voting Rights Act. This 1920s-era civil rights law has been weakened in 2013 and 2021 in major Supreme Court decisions, and  Democrats are looking to reinstate one of the provisions affected by these cases: to pre-approve changes to voting procedures in states with a history of discirminiation (Zurcher).

Democrats’ other major goal is to ensure changes to voting procedures amidst the pandemic remain in place which includes expanding early voting, ballot drop boxes possessing greater use, and easier access to absentee and mail-in voting. Though states like Virginia, Nevada, and Maine have already begun implementing such actions, the Democrats in Congress are eager to set federal standards that would enforce voting-based laws in every state. (Zurcher). 

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, Republicans are focusing on state legislatures under their control to make moves towards further voting restrictions, including limitation on main-in absentee voting and the use of ballot drop boxes. Texas has passed provisions banning methods Democratic cities used during the 2020 elections such as 24-hour voting locations and- the ability of public officials to spread unsolicited mail-in ballot applications. Circling back to Georgia, the state has enacted a law restricting drop boxes to one per 100,000 voters. The state’s law also restricts voting locations to inside election offices or early voting sites, limiting when voters can request an absentee ballot from six months to 67 days before the election (Zurcher).

Numerically, CBS was able to conduct a survey to find out the disparity between what Democrats and Republicans. In terms of whether democracy and the rule of law is threatened, 60% of Democrats and 74% Republicans believe the statement on a “somewhat” or “very” level. Breaking down those statistics, 79% of Republicans believe the major reason for this is illegal voting or ballot casting while 89% of Democrats believe the major reason is people trying to change elections. The Republican’s desire to pass new voting restrictions stems from their view that the 2020 election was plagued with mass fraud, and the Democratic’s efforts are derived from the concern of how the other party’s law will impact voting accessibility and rights (Zurcher). 

As a result, a study from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justices shows that 19 states have passed laws restricting voting access in 2021 and 25 states have taken steps to expand voting rights (Zurcher). In a few days Senators will vote on changing Senate rules if Republicans remain vigilant with blocking voting rights legislation, claims Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer but in order for the President to ensure the rules are actually changed, all Democrats will need to get on the bandwagon. As we have seen throughout this year, the struggle for the Democratic party to come together and agree on legislation has remained a prominent concern and has halted many of Biden’s promised plans (Summers). 

Immerse into the Diverse: Senate seats and political positions are not limited to just those born in the U.S. or with certain physical capabilities. Further, it is not representative of the country if only a specific group of people occupy government leadership who do not understand the struggles and necessities of other individuals. Thus, Senator Tammy Duckworth’s political occupation in the Senate harbors massive importance over the overall representation for U.S citizens not born in the country, Veterans, and disabled women. 

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Tammy Duckworth was born on March 12, 1968 in Bangkok, Thailand to a Thia mother of Chinese descent and an American father occupying the position as a development-aid worker. At 16, her family relocated to Hawaii after living in Thailand and Singapore, briefly living on public assistance. After high school, she attended and graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1989 and earned her master’s degree at George Washington University (GWU) in international affairs in 1992. Her interest in the military sparked at GWU when she joined the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), coincidentally meeting her future husband, Bryan Bowlsbey, who was also a part of the program (McNamee).

Duckworth became a member of the National Guard and trained as a helicopter pilot, being called to duty and sent to Iraq in 2004 while working on her doctorate at Northern Illinois University (McNamee). The Archives of Women’s Political Communication elaborates that she secured the position as a captain in the National Guard and the reason she was deployed to Iraq was for Operation Iraqi Freedom, being the first woman to fly combat missions in Iraq as a Black Hawlk helicopter pilot (“Tammy Duckworth”). While in active duty, her helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, losing both of her legs and enduring a successful 13-hour emergency surgery that saved her right arm (McNamee). 

Duckworth’s official website details that during her time of recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, she advocated for soldiers (“Biography | About Tammy | U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois”) and became a Purple Heart recipient (“Tammy Duckworth”). After she recovered, she acquired the position as Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and used her position to establish vital initiatives to benefit Veterans: helped to create a tax credit for employers hiring Veterans, established a 24/7 Veterans crisis hotline (the first in the country), and developed programs to improve Veterans access to housing and health care (“Biography | About Tammy | U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois”). 

Though having already achieved massive successes and solidifying her stance as an essential figure, her political career didn’t begin until 2006 when she ran for a seat in the House of Representatives as a Democrat. Despite being defeated, she continued to serve in the aforementioned position until President Barack Obama appointed her as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (McNamee). While Assistant Secretary, Duckworth organized a collaborative initiative with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to end Veteran homelessness, address challenges faced by female and Native American Veterans, and to improve the Veteran Affiar’s accessibiltiy through the Office of Online Communication (“Biography | About Tammy | U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois”).

When the 2012 House race rolled around, Duckworth successfully ran for a Democratic seat from the 8th congressional district of Illinois and took office in 2013 (McNamee). She served on the Armed Services Committee and tirelessly advocated for working families and job creation, introducing various bills to improve the lives of the people including the FAM Act, ensuring access to safe, clean, and accessible lactation rooms in airports, and he Clay Hunt SAV Act, enhancing efforts to track and reduce Veteran suicides (“Biography | About Tammy | U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois”). 

In 2016, she successfully ran for a seat in the Senate and became the first U.S. senator born in Thailand (McNamee) as well as the first female veteran and woman with a disability elected into the occupation (“Tammy Duckworth”). In her position, she vocalized the need for practical, common-sense solutions to move the country forward like rebuilding infrastructure, protecting from lead poisoning in Illinois, growing manufacturing jobs while simultaneously supporting minority-owned small businesses, investing in communities that have been neglected, and making college more affordable. She co-founded the Environmental Justice Caucus, the first one in the Senate, and used her political status to support and protect Veterans and U.S. troops sent overseas  (“Biography | About Tammy | U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois”).

After she became the first Senator to give birth in 2018, she broke barriers by instilling a rule change to allow Senators to bring their infant children onto the Senate floor, herself being a mother to two daughters. Today, she serves on numerous committees that enabled her platform to effectively support Illinois’s working families and entrepreneurs, introducing and passing bills with these goals in mind. For her impressive achievements, she has been recognized as one of the top five most effective Democratic Senators by the Center for Effective Lawmaking (“Biography | About Tammy | U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois”). 

Let’s not forget, however, her personal life and attributes as she is fluent in both Thai and Indonesian and spends her time volunteering at local food pantries and in community service projects (“Biography | About Tammy | U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois”). Senator Tammy Duckworth’s achievements throughout her life has positively impacted the American public, and her Senatorship defied the obstacles placed upon U.S. citizens not born in America and Veteran women with disabilities.

Works Cited

“Biography | About Tammy | U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.” TAMMY

DUCKWORTH, www.duckworth.senate.gov/about-tammy/biography.

“Joe Biden to Back Filibuster Rule Change to Push Voting Rights Bill.” The Guardian, 11 Jan.

2022,

www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jan/11/joe-biden-to-back-filibuster-rule-change-to-

ush-voting-rights-bill.

McNamee, Gregory Lewis. “Tammy Duckworth | Biography and Facts.” Encyclopedia

Britannica, www.britannica.com/biography/Tammy-Duckworth.

Summers, Juana. “Biden Is Expected to Back Changing the Filibuster to Pass Voting Rights

Bills.” NPR, 11 Jan. 2022,

choice.npr.org/index.html?origin=https://www.npr.org/2022/01/11/1071940115/biden-ha

ris-atlanta-georgia-voting-visit.

“Tammy Duckworth.” Archives of Women’s Political Communication,

awpc.cattcenter.iastate.edu/directory/tammy-duckworth.

Zurcher, By Anthony. “What’s at Stake in the Struggle over US Voting Laws.” BBC News, 11

Jan. 2022, www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-59946927.