Jeff Jackson, in a blue button-down shirt with his sleeves rolled up, stands on a picnic table at a town hall addressing attendees in Gastonia, NC. NC Democratic US Senate Candidate Jeff Jackson
State Sen. Jeff Jackson, speaks during a town hall in Gastonia, North Carolina. Jackson said he's held over 70 town halls across the state and sees voters increasingly concerned about their ballot protections. (Photo by Allison Lee Isley for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

North Carolina Democrats have a crowded field in this year’s Senate primary race. Cardinal & Pine talks to candidate Jeff Jackson about HR1, otherwise known as the For The People Act, and his plan for protecting voters rights.

This is Part 1 of a Cardinal & Pine series, in which top Democrats vying to represent North Carolina in the 2022 US Senate outline how they’ll protect our votes. Read Part 2 here and Part 3 here

North Carolina has been gerrymandered by Republicans and Democrats alike in recent decades, although North Carolina Republican Party control of the legislature in the last 10 years has yielded several notable attempts to impose stricter voter ID requirements and limit early voting.

State Senator Jeff Jackson, who is running to represent North Carolina in the US Senate, talked to Cardinal & Pine about the recent efforts at the capitol to pass HR1, otherwise known as the For The People Act. An expansive proposal to broaden access and remove barriers to the vote for all eligible Americans, HR1 would eliminate barriers to voting like complex voter registration and limited in-person voting hours, increase access to absentee and mail-in voting, and enhance support for secure elections. 

Jackson, a veteran, currently represents District 37. Prior to taking office in 2014, Jackson served as an assistant district attorney in Gaston County.

C&P: Why should we be talking about the For The People Act right now?

Jeff Jackson: [We just passed] the 56th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. The original intent of the act is to make sure that voters ultimately have power to determine who comes and who goes with respect to representing them. And in the 56 years since the Voting Rights Act, politicians have just found all kinds of ways around it. 

They found ways to transfer electoral power from voters to themselves. The For The People Act was to be our long-awaited defense as voters because we deserve more power in determining who represents us, and it’s been very frustrating to see it hit so many roadblocks.

In addition to the For The People Act, or HR1, we will need to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would be very helpful in tamping down on the voter suppression bills that we’re seeing pop up in places like Georgia, Texas, Florida and Arizona.… To me, the most important part of HR1 is the part that ends gerrymandering on a federal level. 

We absolutely have to do it. It’s not a political issue. It is a moral issue, and the clock is ticking. We have only a few months to end gerrymandering where we catch it again for another decade. They are not going to end it in Raleigh.

C&P: Can you describe the consequences of restricting voting rights?

Jeff Jackson: I’ll give you a very concrete example. North Carolina has 13 congressional districts. And as of now, with respect to how they’re currently drawn, voters have virtually no say in the outcome of any of those elections.

It doesn’t get more direct than that as far as how it impacts people in their daily lives and themselves as , no matter where they live in the state. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat. You don’t want the decision about the outcome of those races to be essentially taken out of your hands, which is exactly what we have in North Carolina and have for this entire decade for the most part. 

This comes up in virtually every single town hall that we have. People get it, they get that voting rights is not only a fundamental issue, but a timely issue and an urgent issue because we’ve done over 70 town halls across the state. Not only has this come up in most of them, but it’s coming up with increasing frequency and increasing volume. The perception of this problem and how great it is, is growing over time. It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse in people’s minds. And that’s probably because we’re seeing more voter suppression bills pop up. 

So people want to know everywhere I go, “What is your plan to,” and then they phrase it differently, “save our democracy, protect voting rights,” things like that. But it comes up absolutely in urban counties, rural counties, everywhere.

C&P: How will you address voting rights if you’re elected? 

Jeff Jackson: My Day One priority as a US Senator would be to support a new Voting Rights Act and to me, a new Voting Rights Act has three key features. One, end gerrymandering; we can’t let the filibuster block essential reforms like ending gerrymandering. If someone wants to hold the floor and give a speech, that’s one thing. But we shouldn’t allow the filibuster to require 60 votes for everything.

Two, pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which you need to tamp down on those voter suppression bills; and three, pass the Disclose Act, which a lot of people haven’t heard of, but they have heard of Citizens United, which put all that dark money into our elections. The Disclose Act would be essential to combat Citizens United because what it does is it makes dark money less dark. If you make dark money less dark, you get less of it. 

Those three key features would comprise a new Voting Rights Act and be a revolution for the amount of power that voters have as voters to determine the outcome of their elections.

*Quotes were edited for brevity and clarity.