CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. (WDVM) — With the 2022 general election on the horizon, many of us will think about when and where to cast our ballots. But many will face restrictions aimed at suppressing this basic American right. Concerned citizens and local leaders in the Eastern Panhandle say that Congress is not doing enough to protect the very core of democracy.

“Voting rights is fundamental to democracy.”

Delegate John Doyle of the 67th District

West Virginia Delegate John Doyle, who represents Jefferson County, wants voters to understand why equal access to the ballot as well as the three major voting rights bills are so important.

“People who say it’s a federal takeover of elections. It’s not it’s no more a federal takeover of elections than the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 was,” Doyle explained. “All it does is guarantee people the right to vote. The states are still in charge with running the show.”

Organizations like the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School are fighting for voting rights. They say the Freedom to Vote Act, backed by Senator Joe Manchin, is a step towards protecting this basic American right.

“It’s a really strong bill that’s going to set strong baseline standards for access to voting and for voting rights across the country,” William Wilder, a voting rights attorney for the Brennen Center, explained. “It’s going to ban partisan gerrymandering to ensure that everybody in our country has fair representation in Congress, and it’s going to go a long way towards cutting down on political corruption as well as the influence of dark money and over money in our politics.”

George Rutherford is the president of the Jefferson County NAACP chapter. He says the new restrictive measures on voting rights are comparable to those faced by African American voters up until 1965.

“I can recall seeing newspaper articles where we’re in order to vote down in a lot of the southern places, you have to have literacy tests. You have to count how many beans were in a bottle,” Rutherford said. “I feel that we are fighting a new battle, or the old battle again, and we fought this battle years and years ago to get the right to vote.”

According to the Brennan Center, 33 new restrictive voting rights legislation has been enacted in 19 different states in just this year alone.