Sen. Toomey, be the one Republican senator who can make a difference

York Dispatch Editorial Board

Republicans in many states, Pennsylvania included, have been busy for the past year.

They've been pushing Donald Trump's Big Lie about a stolen election and using that fabrication as a reason to impose new restrictions on voting. 

Just in Pennsylvania, there are constitutional amendments making their way through the Legislature that would require anyone voting in person or by mail to provide "valid identification"; make the secretary of state an elected position; ban counties from accepting funds to cover election costs; and require paper ballots to have a watermark and be available for inspection for two years. 

More:Invoking Jan. 6, Dems pivot to fight for voting legislation

More:Upset over proposed House map, Grove introduces bill to overhaul redistricting panel

More:Rivals in GOP Senate race attack high-profile candidates who just moved to Pa.

The state auditor general would also be required to “audit” each election before the results are certified “to ensure we have accuracy,” said state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, the chair of the state House State Government Committee. 

Other bills would eliminate no-excuse mail-in voting, require signature matching on mail-in ballots and remove the ability to create other methods of voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School.

And that's just Pennsylvania. Bills restricting voting access were introduce in 49 state legislatures last year, with 19 states passing 34 laws, including laws that would allow partisan legislatures or election judges to reject the results of an election, which is exactly what Trump tried to get legislatures and officials to do to nullify the results of the 2020 presidential election — which Trump lost, by substantial margins.

Congress has a duty to counter these attacks on free and fair elections by enacting new federal laws to ensure the rights of voters across the nation. And a bill currently before the Senate would do much of that work with the biggest overhaul of U.S. elections in a generation. 

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) takes questions from the press after he spoke at a Rotary Club of York meeting at the Country Club of York Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. Bill Kalina photo

The voting rights legislation would get rid of the hurdles to voting created in the name of election security, reduce the influence of big money in politics and limit partisan influence over redistricting, as well as creating national election standards and restoring the ability of the Department of Justice to police election laws in states with a history of discrimination — a safeguard that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.

But the crucial voting rights legislation is being held up by archaic rules in the Senate that require 60 senators to agree to even open debate on many bills.

With a Senate that is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, and at least one Democratic senator who steadfastly opposes changing the filibuster rule to allow a simple majority to conduct the business, there seems to be little hope that the voting legislation will pass, even though it has high approval ratings from voters.

But if even one Republican senator will step forward and say that this legislation is too important to let it die, it could be a turning point.

One Republican senator voting with the Democrats to change the filibuster rule could make that difference.

Sen. Pat Toomey, this is your chance.

Toomey is not running for reelection. He has always been a reliable vote for whatever Republican leadership wants, whether it be a controversial Supreme Court pick or a no vote on impeachment for Trump.

But he's also come across as being more of a businessman than a politician. 

So let's appeal to the businessman in Pat Toomey: Give the people what they want.

Legislatures are forcing unnecessary, unwanted new election laws on voters who don't want them, using claims of election fraud that have been debunked time after time. They're spending millions on "forensic audits" that ruin voting machines and turn up nothing. They're making it more and more difficult for many people, especially minorities, to vote.

We urge you, Sen. Toomey, to look at your constituents instead of the Republican leadership on this matter. Vote to change the filibuster rule, and vote for the voting rights legislation.

Take this final stand, and retire knowing you've done the right thing.