‘America’s democracy is under attack’: Warren calls for support for voting rights legislation, rails against filibuster

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Republican-led state legislatures across the country, she said, have passed laws making it harder for citizens to vote, with marginalized groups and communities of color being disproportionately affected by the changes.

More than a dozen states have passed laws to restrict early voting and mail-in voting, tighten voter ID requirements and make it easier to purge lists of registered voters, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The legislation follows the highest voter turnout in a federal election in a century.

Warren spoke as the Senate debated “The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act”, legislation on the right to vote which combines the Freedom to Suffrage Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Among many other measures, the legislation seeks to preserve early voting and mail-in voting, adopt online and automatic same-day voter registration, and make Election Day a public holiday.

But the fate of the bill, which passed the House last week, is uncertain, as Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have said they will not support changing the law. Senate filibuster rule, which requires major legislation to receive 60 votes instead. by a simple majority.

Warren said the suffrage legislation would “ensure that every American citizen can easily vote and have their vote counted” and would “restore historic protections against state laws that have the purpose and effect of discriminating on the basis of of the race”.

“Unfortunately, Senate Republicans would rather destroy our democracy than have free and fair elections,” she said. “Elections depend on the will of the majority, but Republicans in the Senate do not want what the majority of Americans want.”

Warren went on to slam her Republican colleagues in the Senate who she said would rather derail the bill “even to get a vote.” She added that her “opinion on this is that filibuster has no place in our democracy.”

In the past, Warren said the filibuster “has become the favorite tool of racists and segregationists”, working to preserve “Jim Crow laws and [stalling] civil rights legislation for decades”, while blocking “the passage of anti-lynching legislation for more than 100 years”.

The filibuster, she said, has been “weaponized to intensify partisan division” and thwart “the will of the people” on issues ranging from immigration reform to abortion rights.

“Today’s filibuster doesn’t encourage debate, it encourages cowardice,” Warren said. “Senators can torpedo bills without saying a word in public, or even step on the floor of the US Senate. This is not how a so-called deliberative body should operate. Senators should be required to speak and vote, not hide behind a ruler. They should have to put some skin in the game.

Warren concluded his speech by urging passage of the legislation and issued the ultimatum that senators can either “choose to protect a tool of Jim Crow and segregation that is nowhere in the Constitution” or ” choose to defend the sacred right to vote”. ”

“If Senate Republicans don’t join us, then we need to reform the filibuster,” she said. “We need to pass this vital legislation. Our democracy depends on it.

Watch the full speech here:

Correction: An earlier version of this article misrepresented a quote from Warren on whether American democracy was under attack. Warren said, “American democracy is under attack from Republican politicians.”


Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.

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