Referring to apartheid-era voting restrictions and warning of a disastrous end to American democracy, Senate Democrats on Tuesday passed a resolution urging Congress to pass comprehensive suffrage legislation to counter actions by several states that they say made it harder for voters to vote. .
House Democrats replicated the Senate action soon after.
“We have never seen a more dangerous attack on our democracy in modern times than what we have seen in the past two years,” said Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder.
Senator Chris Hansen, D-Denver, recounted his time in South Africa shortly after the county began to dismantle the apartheid regime and effectively framed the American debate over suffrage legislation as a choice between learning the lessons of the history of the African nation or embracing its worst manifestations.
“The apartheid government’s top priority was to restrict the franchise,” he said, arguing that America’s experiment in representative democracy will not survive unless Congress acts to overturn the laws of state that he says restrict people’s ability to vote. box.
“We can’t go back,” Hansen said. “We will not sit idly by as the forces act to restrict the right to vote.”
Two suffrage measures are at issue, Senate Memorial 1 and House Resolution 4. In addition to pushing for the passage of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Advancing Voting Rights Act, the resolution also reaffirms the “validity of the results of the 2020 presidential election.” as legitimate and verified.
Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert of R-Douglas County said he agrees with many of the points raised in the resolution, including passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 He would never condone actions that restricted Americans’ ability to vote, including making them vote on taxes, literacy tests and intimidation, he said.
What he cannot agree with, he said, is the assertion that Colorado’s electoral system “serves as an example to the rest of the nation.”
He said he had two problems with that assertion: He cannot agree with a system that sends ballots by mail to addresses where the intended recipients no longer live and that relies on a simple declaration of intention to be able to vote on the same day.
“If you’ve been door-to-door, have you ever come across someone who says that person doesn’t live there anymore?” he said.
He also questioned the presumption that the actions of Congress are ultimately good for democracy.
“Do you know what Congress would pass? I don’t,” he said.
The measure passed by a 20-13 vote, with Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, voting with Democrats.
The same debate unfolded in the House, where Republicans and Democrats brushed aside House Speaker Alec Garnett’s plea for lawmakers to avoid using the “well of this chamber as your Twitter handle” so they were fighting over the voting rights.
The dispute centered on HR 4, which targeted restrictive election laws passed in Georgia and Texas. He also cited the Jan. 6 riot and said “lies and conspiracies about the integrity of the 2020 election have permeated our media and public discourse.”
The resolution concludes by calling on “the United States Congress, and especially members of the United States Senate, to enact comprehensive suffrage legislation to protect the fundamental right to vote, which is the cornerstone of our democracy since the founding of our republic. ”
Rep. Tony Exum, a black Democrat from Colorado Springs who sponsored the resolution along with Rep. Kerry Tipper, D-Lakewood, focused on the history of black Americans with disenfranchisement. He said things improved after the Voting Rights Act was passed, but added that the 2013 law Shelby County vs. Holder The Supreme Court ruling “eviscerated much” of the VRA, which, in turn, “made it easier for states to begin enacting suppressive laws.”
“Here’s what those laws look like: Across 19 states, 34 voter suppression laws restrict voter registration, eliminate polling places, reduce early voting and reduce voting hours,” Exum said. “They also criminalized and punished people who give food and water to people waiting in line to vote.”
But Republican lawmakers, led by Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, described the resolution as the latest example of the “totalitarian tactics of Democrats and their attempts to degrade everything that we are.”
“States like Colorado with well-respected voting systems can shine because state law — not partisan federal edicts — determine how those systems work,” McKean said in a statement ahead of the lawsuit. proposal on the floor. “The last thing we need is for the federal government to step in and nationalize voting procedures. Democrats can’t say out of the blue that the system works, and in the next breath say we can’t be trusted and must instead change that same system.
Republican Representative Dave Williams of Colorado Springs introduced a series of amendments, but each was defeated. These included language aimed at preventing deceased persons and those who are not citizens from voting, provisions Democrats noted are already in state law.
Rep. Ron Hanks, a Cañon City Republican seeking nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, came under fire during the 2021 session for joking about lynching and arguing that a constitutional provision that treated slaves as three-fifths of a human being “challenged no one’s humanity”.
Hanks’ views on the 2020 election, the centerpiece of his U.S. Senate campaign, were on full display Tuesday.
After praising King and the civil rights leaders of the 1960s, Hanks dove into “election integrity.” It included a defense of people who, like Hanks, were in Washington, D.C. for the Jan. 6 riot but did not participate in the violent attack on the US Capitol.
“I’m a little offended for some of the people I met in Washington, DC,” Hanks said. “These people have done nothing wrong. They were afraid for their country.
Hanks also introduced an unsuccessful amendment calling for a non-governmental audit of the 2020 election.
McKean, in his final comments, acknowledged that President Joe Biden won the election in 2020, just as President Donald Trump won in 2016. He also voted against the Williams and Hanks Amendments.
One amendment called for supporting Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, which Garnett says is contrary to opposing voter fraud. Another called for support for those who stormed the US Capitol on January 6. Garnett said the resolution is neither partisan nor political, but the amendments proposed by Republicans are.
In a speech expressing rare anger, Garnett shouted, “In Colorado, we can’t stay silent!”
He added: “The choice is clear between the two groups of elected officials in this building. The choice is yours. Your ability to vote is at risk.”
As he held up one of the Republican amendments, the speaker said, “In these terms…America, listen. Your ability to vote is under threat! Pull the folders and look who voted for these amendments!”
House Republicans have called for recorded votes on the resolution, as well as their amendments. Roll call votes usually end up in campaign announcements.
The House resolution passed on a purely partisan vote.
Meanwhile, state GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown weighed in on the resolution, calling it “a blatant political ploy by Democrats in the House to distract from the fact that they’ve spent years to raise taxes, to adopt policies that have led to record levels of violent crime. , and put students and parents last.
Nico Delgado, spokesman for the Colorado Democratic Party, said “two-thirds of the Republican House members voted to thank the US Senate favorite (Hanks) for being an insurgent. The GOP showed its true colors with this vote and it’s all part of an extreme agenda that only serves Donald Trump and hurts Coloradons.”