Something is grossly wrong with local, state and federal elections that deserve our attention. Since the last election, the country has spiraled down the abyss of regulatory overkill addressing voter rights. The Brennan Center for Justice finds that more than 60 dozen new bills are moving through the system even though voter fraud is rare with no impact on results. Even with all the hyperbole from the last presidential recounts and recounts of recounts, minuscule impropriety was found.

America has come a very long way in regard to voters' rights. We have evolved from land owning white men being the only eligible voters, to including women, people of color, even formerly incarcerated people as registered voters. There is still so much more that can be done and we cannot stay stagnant.

During the last election, there were polling places in various counties where voters waited from five to 11 hours. In Ohio, Virginia, Texas and Georgia, social media lit up with descriptions of lines stretching miles. This situation was in poorer areas, which are the biggest target for suppression. Americans deserve better.

I have voted absentee successfully for years even though Republican propaganda claims it is unreliable. The right-wing narrative on mail-in ballots has become so ridiculous that gullible voters supporting that nonsense can’t reconcile that it’s a voter suppression tactic. Like the thousands who vote with mail-in ballots, the military has been voting absentee forever, and the judicial system has deemed that the mail service is reliable.

Why does the Republican leadership continue with this ridiculous nonsense? They never complain in elections they win even though it’s the same system when they lose. It’s because the Republican voter base is shrinking. It’s a combination of things: an older generation dying off, disenfranchised Republicans, who have become irritated with a platform that accepts racism, Qanon “wackadoo” conspiracy theories, horrendous behaviors from colleges, and anti-vax propaganda. Kevin McCarthy publicly stated back in May of this year, “It’s a big tent and we have room for everybody.” Voters who see the forest for trees will not tolerate comments like that, and are leaving the party.

Another obvious reason the Republican party is shrinking is that young educated adults, who were raised in the church, are now registering as Democrats or no party preference. This is due to the fact that the American church, that used to be about “moral values," has become a body of voters that hates their neighbors, especially if they are undocumented or LGTBQ+. It’s no longer a party of Christian conscience but a club whose leaders are more concerned with their tax free multibillion dollar empires than the standards and values they preach on any given Sunday.

So what is the Republican party left with? If you can’t outvote a majority that desires better health care and education, cleaner air and support for social constructs that benefit the poor, you suppress the voter with long lines and voter suppression laws. It’s desperate behavior.

Election systems should not be a scapegoat for Republicans who fairly lost elections. However, we still need to build a system that is more stable, accessible and, most importantly, won’t favor powerful groups to rile up voters with off-the-rails conspiracies.

To move forward, let’s make Election Day a national holiday. Let’s make it simple, accessible and easier. Voter rights must be protected and candidates must have recourse for impropriety in the system. It’s time to make sure that every eligible American can vote in a system where the power class cannot manipulate the process.

Starting in our own backyard, if you want to protect your vote, you need to pay better attention to how/if your vote is counted. For the June primary, make sure you receive your ballot by May 10, 2022. If you don’t, you need to contact elections at 661-868-3590, or go to their office located at 1115 Truxtun Ave. Bakersfield, CA 93301 and request a ballot or vote on the spot. Also, you need to make sure you’re educated on the process of voting. Last time, elections sent out the wrong voting instructions. If it’s not making sense to you, please contact them. We need everyone to vote successfully.

Jeff Heinle is an Assembly Delegate for the 34th District.