Photo by Claudia Johnstone Cindy Dach, co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe
Photo by Claudia Johnstone

Senate Republicans filibustered the For the People Act recently, at least temporarily ensuring its demise. Changing Hands Bookstore co-owner Cindy Dach says she expected more.

Growing up, Cindy Dach really believed in the power of voting. She believed that everyone was equal in the voting booth and that “if things are not working to your benefit in our country, voting is a way to impact change.” 

But as she got older, she began to see how restrictions on voting—ones that disproportionately impact Black, Latino, and Indigenous people—prevented it from truly being an equalizer. Now, as a small business owner, Dach has been outspoken about the importance of protecting and expanding voting rights. 

“I do believe that voting should be equal,” Dach told The Copper Courier. “I believe that everyone should have equal and fair access to voting and be able to vote. It should not be a burden and we shouldn’t have to wade through mud to cast a vote.”

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Dach, who co-owns the Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, says that owning a small business that is focused on building community and the human experience has informed her views on voting and the need to expand access to the ballot box. 

“I’m more connected to the community than perhaps an owner of a large corporation just because the lines to my community are shorter,” she said.

That’s why Dach recently co-authored an op-ed in the Arizona Republic in support of HR 1/S 1, the For the People Act. The federal bill aimed to make voting more accessible and convenient for Americans, overhaul standards for national elections, and implement anti-corruption policies. 

But last week, the For the People Act stalled in the US Senate during a procedural vote. While all 50 Senate Democrats, including Arizona Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, voted to begin debate on the bill, not a single Republican supported the move.

“I am shocked that anyone who holds public office would vote against this bill. The outcome is embarrassing, disappointing, and still shocking to me,” Dach said. “I expect more from political leadership. I expect them to protect all voices.” 

There’s Something for Everyone

Had it ultimately passed, the For the People Act—which is supported by 83% of voters—would have:

  • made Election Day a national holiday
  • enabled automatic, online, and same-day voter registration
  • required at least 15 early voting days, including weekends
  • allowed any voter who wants to cast a ballot by mail to do so
  • and reformed the nation’s campaign finance system by limiting the influence of wealthy donors and “dark money.”

“It’s urgent that the US Senate passes the For the People Act immediately,” Dach wrote in the June 4 op-ed with Tiffany Muller, president of the nonprofit End Citizens United/Let America Vote Action Fund. “This freedom is not just important for individual voters: it’s fundamentally important to the business community, especially small businesses. A strong, healthy democracy that includes everyone’s perspective—and the growth and stability that it brings—is good for business.”

Dach is far from alone in her support for HR 1. Nearly 700 small business owners from across the country, including 15 Arizonans, signed a letter organized by the Business Forward Foundation urging Congress to pass the bill into law.

Eric Chalmers, the Arizona Coordinator for End Citizens United, has also worked with a coalition of Arizona residents, including small business owners, to push for passage of the For the People Act.

“There’s something in there that everybody can get behind,” Chalmers said. “You look at the whole package and you know it fixes a lot of the issues we are dealing with right now.”

Instead, Republicans mounted a filibuster, temporarily ensuring the bill’s demise in the 50-50 Senate and giving their counterparts in state legislatures free reign to pass laws restricting voting access for millions of Americans—a process they’ve already begun. As of mid-May, state lawmakers across 48 states have introduced 389 bills that restrict voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Nearly two dozen of those bills have already been enacted. 

“What we’re seeing happen with all this voting suppression all over our country is a select group of people deciding whose voice should be heard. It’s shameful and it’s disgusting,” Dach said.

For Dach, there’s no mystery why Republicans are rushing to restrict access to the ballot box. “The fear of loss of power seems to be driving this,” she said. “What I would hope is to have politicians in my world that are much more mature than that and willing to listen and learn from people who don’t agree with them rather than shut out their voice.”

Arizona Is at the Forefront 

Republicans in Arizona have introduced more than 20 bills to limit voting access, including efforts to shorten the time for early voting and preemptively ban automatic voter registration. 

Some of these efforts drew significant backlash from dozens of local business leaders, including Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill and the leaders of other prominent Arizona businesses. Despite the controversy surrounding the proposals, Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, recently signed one of those bills into law. 

SB 1485 will require counties to remove mail-in voters from their early voting list during odd-numbered years if they do not cast a ballot by mail for two election cycles in a row and fail to respond to a notice from election officials within 90 days. 

Activists and Democrats fear that the bill could push between 100,000 and 216,000 voters, many of whom are Black and Latino, off what was previously known as the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). That list will now be called the Active Early Voting List because of the new law. 

“It’s potentially taking hundreds of thousands of people off their ability to vote early by mail, and that’s going to have repercussions on elections for years going forward,” Chalmers said.

Consider this: Joe Biden’s margin of victory in 2020 was fewer than 11,000 votes. With 100,000 fewer voters on PEVL, who knows what might have happened last year. 

The For the People Act Would Restore Democracy

These attacks on voting rights are the very reason The For the People Act must be passed, according to Dach.

“This landmark package of voting rights reform and anti-corruption legislation would combat these dangerous purges by ensuring that all eligible voters, including Arizonans, are sent an application for a mail-in ballot prior to Election Day, regardless of whether they’re on an early vote list,” Dach wrote in her op-ed. “The For the People Act would also address the dangerous impact of the audit and voter suppression efforts by restoring faith in our democracy.”

Republicans in the state Senate mandated a GOP-led, privately managed audit of the results in Maricopa County. The effort has been widely dismissed as a hypocritical farce. Even some Arizona Republicans have criticized the audit, describing it as “insane” and a “grift.”

The For the People Act would override most of the voter suppression laws being passed across the country and rein in the role of dark money groups and powerful donors and corporations, which “would make our government more responsive to the public interest,” according to Dach’s op-ed. “It would affirm and ensure people—not just the powerful—are the foundation of our democracy.”

Despite last week’s setback, Dach remains hopeful that the fight will go on. After all, as a small business owner with ties to her community, she knows what’s at stake. 

Without free and fair access to the ballot box, policies that many Arizonans and Americans support—gun safety laws, laws that ban LGBTQ discrimination, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act—won’t stand a chance of becoming law. 

“[Voting] is my opportunity to have a voice for human rights, have a voice in policy,” Dach said.

The For the People Act would ensure every American has that same opportunity.

READ MORE: Activists Urge Sinema to Ditch Filibuster After Republicans Use it to Kill Voting Rights Bill