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The promise of American democracy is that we can come together across race, religion, generation and political differences to govern, solve problems and build a collective future. That promise can be realized only when everyone has equal access to participate in our elections.

As Minnesotans, members of the state Legislature and two people who, as lawyers and lawmakers, have worked to expand voting rights and access to justice, we have committed our lives to that promise and to creating an inclusive democracy. In Minnesota, we have worked for decades to fight voter suppression and expand access to the ballot.

Generations before us organized, protested and died to make real the promise of multiracial democracy in our country. After centuries of oppression, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 fulfilled that promise. Called "the single most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress," for nearly 60 years the VRA has safeguarded the right to vote and provided a remedy for people of color who face discrimination.

But last November, with the stroke of a pen, two judges on the Eighth U.S. Circuit of Appeals put all that in jeopardy. Upending decades of precedent and ignoring centuries of history, the decision strips citizens of seven states, including Minnesota, of their right to challenge racially discriminatory laws and redistricting plans under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This leaves citizens from Lutsen to Little Rock without legal recourse under the VRA unless the U.S. attorney general decides to sue on their behalf.

We pride ourselves on our commitment to protecting and strengthening the power of voters, and our actions reflect that. In 2023, the Democracy for the People Act enacted automatic voter registration, early voting, preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds and Restore the Vote, which re-enfranchised 55,000 Minnesotans on probation and parole.

And now, we will add passing the Minnesota Voting Rights Act to our list. This legislation, which passed in the House last week and is on the Senate floor Thursday, solidifies protections against unequal access to the ballot by codifying elements of the federal Voting Rights Act into state law. It will ensure Minnesota voters have these essential protections and empower them to respond to the threats faced by voters of color today.

This couldn't come at a more urgent time, as our country's great project of multiracial democracy is being tested in ways large and small. Federal court decisions have chipped away at the Voting Rights Act and other landmark legislation intended to create equal opportunity in our democracy, economy and society. A powerful conservative legal movement has stacked the courts with ideological judges who deliver decision after decision undermining racial equity in public schools, affirmative action in higher education, and reproductive rights, to name a few.

This decision against the Voting Rights Act is especially troubling in a high-stakes election year, when an openly anti-democratic candidate and his supporters are fanning the flames of division and election lies. At the same time, some state legislatures have responded to powerful multiracial political movements by attacking the freedom to vote. The tidal wave of anti-voter laws has nothing to do with voter integrity. It has everything to do with power, and the folks who have hoarded it for generations, not wanting to see the power of the people — of multiracial democracy — prevail.

Here in Minnesota, we have made a different choice. We are embracing the promise of multiracial, multigenerational democracy where everyone in our community has a voice in our future. We do this work with a sense of obligation and gratitude to the generations of Minnesotans and Americans before us who organized, legislated and litigated to remove barriers to the ballot box. It is our work to protect the freedom to vote and create a more inclusive democracy. By passing the Minnesota Voting Rights Act, we are reaffirming our commitment to the promise of a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Emma Greenman, DFL-Minneapolis, is a member of the Minnesota House. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, is a member of the Minnesota Senate. The Star Tribune Editorial Board wrote in support of the Minnesota Voting Rights Act on April 5 in "No hostility to voting in Minnesota, please."