Biden’s work on voting rights may not be enough as a redistribution looms

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Many franchise advocates hope the Biden administration’s recent lawsuit against Texas plan to downplay the voting power of non-white residents signals a new willingness to face Republican-led efforts to return the vote. more difficult for blacks and Latin Americans.

But some national security experts, including a former senior White House homeland security adviser, fear the Biden administration is fundamentally judging how widespread and insidious efforts to suppress voters and vote fraud are.

They fear that activists aligned with former President Donald Trump will not only try to make it harder for non-white Americans to vote, but also infiltrate traditionally non-partisan local polling stations to tip the scales in their favor in a country where hundreds of votes in a single county could alter a presidential election.

“I’m probably even more worried today than I was last fall. While we may have defeated Trump, the extremism of Trumpism has not been defeated. He grew, he grew and grew bolder. All of this is worrying on so many levels, ”said Olivia Troye, former Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor to Vice President Mike Pence.

“Rig the system” to stimulate Trump

Troye left the White House in August 2020 because of the administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and correctly predicted the January 6 insurgency in which armed Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol , trying to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College. Troye, a longtime Republican, said she feared the Biden administration would be distracted by the coronavirus pandemic, rapidly rising inflation and other issues, and not focusing enough on the widespread assault on voting rights and access.

“What we are seeing here is an unprecedented attack on our democracy and efforts to destabilize our democracy,” she said. “You’re basically rigging the system so that next time you can override the will of the people. It’s relentless. And it doesn’t fade away.”

Nationally, at least 19 states have passed laws this year that make it harder for Americans to vote, according to an analysis from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. Another 25 states have expanded access to voting, the Brennan Center said – but noted that states that cracked down already had restrictive laws, while those that expanded access already had relatively more extensive rules.

In March, the nonprofit Freedom House said the United States had slipped significantly in its annual ranking of world freedoms, falling to the level of countries like Panama, Romania and Croatia, and well behind the United Kingdom, Chile and Costa Rica. And The Economist this year called the United States a “flawed” democracy, citing a deep dysfunction of government, a loss of social cohesion and a failure to agree on basic facts.

Voting rights advocates said the Biden administration‘s lawsuit filed against Texas last week over the boundaries of its legislative districts was an important step in showing its resolve to fight for democracy for all Americans. In a series of speeches and the lawsuit itself, senior Justice Department officials presented their case against the Texas redistribution plan, which has been widely criticized by liberal groups for diluting Texans’ voting power. not white.

Texas is expected to win two new seats in the United States House of Representatives due to the increase in population, but although the growth is almost entirely attributable to non-white residents, “Texas designed these two new seats for that they are predominantly white, ”Vanita Gupta, the associate attorney general of the United States, said in a statement announcing the trial. “These carving plans will reduce the opportunities for Latino and black voters in Texas to elect their preferred representatives. And that is prohibited by federal law.”

This fall, Texas also tightened mail-in voting rules and limited the availability of ballot boxes and drive-thru voting. While state officials have said the measures will help reduce fraud, experts point out that there was no significant demonstrable voter fraud and that the changes are primarily designed to make it more difficult for voters not white people to vote.

Systematic obstruction of the law on the right to vote

Until 2013, nine states – mostly in the South – needed federal approval to change their voting rules because they had a proven track record of discriminating against minority voters. But the Supreme Court overturned that rule, allowing Texas, Arizona and Georgia, among other states, to make changes without prior approval, known as “preclearance.”

Ezra D. Rosenberg of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Act, said he was delighted to see how seriously the president and his staff took the protection of voting rights, and noted that the The Biden administration had filed three Voting Rights Act lawsuits in its first 10 months, against Texas, Georgia and West Monroe, Louisiana. By comparison, the Obama administration has tabled five in eight years. The Trump administration has filed only one in its four years, against a South Dakota school district.

“The level of activity has been very high, judged by historical standards,” he said.

But other advocates of the right to vote fear the Justice Department will be forced to playing “whack-a-mole” trying to fight changes in Texas, Georgia and other states. In Georgia, the Republican-led legislature slashed the electoral power of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who refused Trump’s demand to “find” enough votes to win the state last year .

“Now we are watching as all the things we knew was going to happen start to happen,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of the racial justice group Color of Change. “The people in the Department of Justice are some of the best in the county. . These are people who I know take this work very seriously, who look at this issue with deep integrity and focus. The problem is, you don’t want to just wonder how to create consequences. You want to prevent this from happening in the first place.

Like other advocates of access to the vote, Robinson wants Congress to pass new national voting rights law. But while the House passes the measure, it will not pass the Senate unless Majority Leader Chuck Schumer clears the filibuster. Under current Senate rules, the bill needs 60 senators to approve it, rather than the simple majority Democrats have.

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Voter Restriction Laws: Why Republican States Are Changing Them

Republican states are passing several voter restriction laws in response to Trump’s defeat in 2020. Here’s how that could impact the midterm and 2024 elections.

Just the FAQ, USA TODAY

Is the law on free voting sufficient?

The “Freedom to Vote Act” makes polling day a federal holiday, sets national standards for postal and advance voting, and ensures that people can register to vote on polling day.

“What we are seeing in the South are very concerning signs. The redistribution without preclearance in place is riddled with abuse, even at the local level,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU voting rights project. . “It’s a time when all the players are on the bridge. We need bold and concrete action before it is too late. This is a very, very critical moment. These are perilous times for our democracy. “

Experts like Matt Masterson have said the situation is more perilous than many Americans realize. Masterson, former Election Security Advisor in the Department of Homeland Security, is the co-author of the recent article “Zero Trust: How to Secure American Elections When the Losers Won’t Accept They Lost.” “

Masterson said Trump supporters scared many election workers into stepping down and then trying to step into the power vacuum. In September, ProPublica reported that a wave of Trump-aligned activists were signing up to hold local elections across the country, following calls by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon to take control of local party offices.

“We see it all across the country and in pretty much every state,” Masterson said. “In the worst case, you have political actors pursuing these positions. They are interested in pursuing their political goals rather than serving voters and serving American democracy.

Troye, the former counterterrorism expert, said she feared voting rights groups put too much trust in courts and law enforcement to protect civil rights. She said the police and military saw the same conspiracy theories as all other Americans and feared that when the going did, the conservative-leaning police and soldiers might be more willing to side with Trump and the United States. his allies because they repeated the election so often.

During the Jan. 6 uprising, pro-Trump activists said they hoped to scare Congress into declaring him the winner of the presidential election, and threatened to hang elected officials who refused, including Pence. Dozens of these protesters had served in the military or law enforcement, and some were on active duty at the time.

“What happens when you get to a point where law enforcement, the military, join these groups, and they’re the traditional defenders of democracy?” Troye asked. “When you erode all of these levels, it erodes every fiber that holds democracy. Together.”

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