More to come on voting rights | Editorials

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Pass the popcorn because this whole voting rights movie is getting interesting.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that two West Virginia natives and sports icons – University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West, as well as other less powerful luminaries with ties to the state – urged U.S. Senator Joe Manchin in a January 13 letter to support sweeping legislation to protect the right to vote.

Suddenly, beloved sports personalities were being told on online social media that they should zip it up and stick to what they know best, the Xs and O’s, and keep their noses and their opinions out of national politics – this by many of the same people who applauded Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback who took center stage when he refused to get a Covid shot , and even lied about it, because, well, he had done his own research. Yeah, he said he did his own research.

Either way, the suffrage legislation was defeated. Republican senators staged a successful filibuster and stalled the bill in its tracks, and a few Democratic senators, including our own, were never going to change the filibuster rule in the Senate that would have allowed the legislation to pass. be adopted by simple majority. . Manchin was sticking to a Senate rule despite concerns over deteriorating US law – equal access to the ballot box for all on Election Day.

At the moment, this is not the case and the conditions on the ground are becoming more and more difficult.

In 2021, according to a tally kept by the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, 19 states — most of them controlled by Republicans — enacted 34 laws that made it harder to vote. .

And in 2022? The push to impose state-level voting restrictions — requiring only a simple majority vote — is gathering pace as Republicans offer a kaleidoscope of new proposals ranging from legislation that would eliminate ballot boxes to plans to legislation that would establish new, stricter identification requirements for voting.

In Georgia, for example, a bill was introduced this month that would ban the use of ballot boxes. In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis wants to establish a new law enforcement office to investigate election crimes. In Arizona, another battleground state, a bill would establish different new voter ID requirements.

Lawmakers in four states have already pre-introduced at least 13 bills for the 2022 legislative sessions, which would make it harder to vote, according to analysis by the Brennan Center.

And in five states, six pre-filed bills would allow ‘audits’ or reviews of election results, as former President Donald Trump and his allies continue to baselessly blame his 2020 loss on voter fraud. .

But as our country’s history proves, putting barriers to voting for many populations is nothing new – and quite effective. And you don’t need to go back to Jim Crow times for a history lesson on gerrymandered districts. These are still being drawn.

All recent activity was spurred in 2013 when the Supreme Court, wearing blinders, weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-4 vote, freeing nine states – mostly in the Deep South with a history proven to have blocked significant numbers of eligible voters from the ballot box – to change their election laws without prior federal approval.

So, yeah, ultimately the Democrats couldn’t change the filibuster rule in the Senate.

But this dog still has some hunting. As the former president’s influence on the GOP fades in a central constituency under the burning lights of multiple investigations from New York to DC, some Republican senators may want to step out of the pack — and do what they do. it is necessary.

And maybe Joe too can understand the difference between a Senate rule and a man’s or a woman’s right to vote – no matter where they’re from, no matter the color of their skin, no matter age, the size of a house they live in or their education.

On all of this, I think Senator Joe still needs some coaching.

— J. Damon Cain is editor of the Register-Herald. To reach him, send an email to dcain@register-herald.com.

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