One hundred years ago Friday, just six months before the 19th Amendment was approved, the League of Women Voters was established as a “mighty political experiment” to help 20 million newly enfranchised women get out the vote. What began as a small grassroots movement has evolved into a leading nonpartisan civic organization dedicated to ensuring the voting rights of every American. Over the last century, the League’s volunteers have also advocated for landmark laws ranging from the Equal Rights Amendment to the National Voter Registration Act passed in 1993 – all aimed at creating a more inclusive democracy.

As the first woman elected to represent Maine’s 1st Congressional District, I recognize that I wouldn’t hold this role were it not for the fearless suffragists and League advocates who came before me. Building on the progress they fought for, I’m working in Congress to mitigate big money in politics, voter suppression, gerrymandering and threats to election security. As we’ve seen, our democratic institutions are fragile and we must fight to preserve them.

The nation’s intelligence agencies confirmed without a doubt that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, and they’ll do it again unless we act quickly. Congress has a responsibility to step up and protect our democratic elections. I proudly joined my House colleagues in passing the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act last June, which provides funding to protect U.S. election systems, requires the use of paper ballots, mandates post-election audits and helps defend against foreign hacking and attacks.

This past fall, the House passed HR 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, with my support. After rampant voter suppression nationwide – like voter ID laws, purging of voter rolls and poll taxes – we need to rebuild access to the ballot box and restore the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. I’m also an original co-sponsor of HR 1, a comprehensive package of democracy reforms to clean up our elections, which passed the House nearly a year ago. The bill includes campaign finance reform, automatic voter registration, restoration of voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals and ethics reform – all of which will restore power to the people. Unfortunately, both HR 1 and HR 4 are stalled in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is blocking a vote.

Extreme partisan gerrymandering harms our political system and has a particularly pervasive effect on the function of the U.S. House of Representatives, since the boundaries of our district maps are redrawn after every census. Back in 2017, I joined dozens of former and current members of Congress to submit an amicus brief to the Supreme Court regarding Gill v. Whitford, a case that involved a challenge to Wisconsin’s redistricted state legislative map, which was drawn to maximize the number of Republican seats. Though the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to decide either way on gerrymandering, I am heartened by initiatives like independent commissions to draw districts across the country that would empower states to fight gerrymandering and draw fair maps. In a truly representative government, voters should choose their representatives – not the other way around.

I’m a proud co-sponsor of H.J. Res. 2, a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that allowed vast amounts of money to pour into our political system from anonymous donors. In the course of a decade, that misguided Supreme Court decision has allowed $4.5 billion to influence our elections. Fortunately, in Maine, we’re celebrating 20 years of our Clean Elections system, which allows legislators to turn down corporate special interest money. And in 2019, we became the first state in the nation to pass ranked-choice voting, which ensured voters no longer had to worry about splitting their votes. We can take pride in the powerful measures taken in Maine to protect our democracy and embolden the voice of our voters.

As Maine voters head to the polls March 3 to vote in the presidential primary, let’s not forget how hard women fought for the right to cast their ballot and never take it for granted.

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