Voting Rights and Negotiations in Congress


Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has set the stage for a showdown this month over voting rights — pledging to bolster sweeping new federal legislation aimed at countering Republican moves in capitals states to restrict access to the ballot.

But to do so, he must accomplish a near impossible feat and persuade reluctant senators in his own caucus to change chamber rules to circumvent the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome repeated Republican blockades of bills.

Despite support for the ballot measures, two of his fellow Democrats — Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — defended the so-called filibuster, which requires 10 Republicans to support the advancement of legislation in an evenly divided Senate 50-50.

Time is running out for Democrats, who are racing to establish new ground rules for voting ahead of this year’s midterm elections that will determine which party controls Congress.

Republican-controlled legislatures, particularly in battleground states that saw a surge in Democratic turnout and victories in 2020, have already enacted a series of new laws that limit mail-in voting, impose security requirements additional identification and otherwise create new barriers to voting. And other restrictions are likely to be passed in upcoming state legislative sessions.

Schumer has set a Jan. 17 Martin Luther King Jr. Day deadline for voting on rule changes if Republicans block bills from consideration again.

The looming showdown comes as some GOP leaders have begun to voice support for a more modest approach: updating an arcane 19th-century law, known as the Voter Count Act, which details how Congress counts the votes of each state’s electoral college.

Schumer insisted that an overhaul of the voter count law cannot replace broader electoral reforms. And President Joe Biden is expected to advocate for broader federal suffrage legislation during his trip to Georgia today, a key political battleground and a birthplace of the country’s civil rights movement.

As the Senate prepares to tackle the right to vote, here’s a look at the various legislative proposals and what they would do:

The Free Suffrage Act: This bill from a group of Democrats, including Manchin and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, sweeps sweeping changes to election and campaign finance laws in one place. The goal is to establish ground rules that all states must follow in administering federal elections.

Among its provisions: making Election Day a holiday, mandating same-day voter registration, ensuring all voters can request mail-in ballots, and restoring federal voting rights to ex-felons once that they are released from prison.

It also aims to guard against partisan takeovers of election administration, ban partisan gerrymandering of congressional precincts, and disclose the tenure of donors to deep-pocketed “dark money” groups seeking to influence the elections.

All 50 members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate support the bill; Republicans dismissed it as an overreach of the federal government.

The John Lewis Advance Voting Rights Act: The bill, named after the late Georgia congressman and civil rights icon who died in 2020, would restore the federal government’s power to oversee state election laws to prevent discrimination against minority voters.

A 2013 Supreme Court ruling gutted a central pillar of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which required nine states and parts of other states with a history of racial discrimination to obtain approval or ‘preclearance’ of the United States Department of Justice or a federal judge before changing their elections. Strategies.

Shortly after the ruling, some states began enacting new election laws, such as adding stricter voter identification requirements. And over the past year, Republican-led states have moved quickly to change more laws, spurred by former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that widespread voter fraud led to his downfall in 2020.

The John Lewis bill would change the formula used to determine which states need to get “preclearance” for their voting rules. It would extend preclearance coverage to states that have suffered multiple suffrage violations over the past 25 years — an attempt to address the Supreme Court majority’s concern that some states were being unfairly punished for wrongdoings old of decades under the old law, rather than current discriminatory practices.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is the only Senate Republican to sign the bill.

Read the full story and more about bills here.


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