Senate Democrats pledge to build muscle through voting rights legislation. A look at what their proposals would do

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

Despite backing the voting measures, two of his fellow Democrats – Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin – have defended the so-called filibuster, who demands 10 Republicans support the advancement of legislation in an equally divided 50-50 Senate. .

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

Republican-controlled legislatures, especially in battlefield states that saw increased turnout and Democratic victories in 2020, have already enacted a slew of new laws that limit postal voting, impose identification requirements additional barriers and also create new obstacles to voting. And other restrictions are likely to be adopted during the next legislative sessions of the state.

Schumer has set the Martin Luther King Jr. Day deadline Jan. 17 to vote on rule changes if Republicans block consideration of bills again.

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

Schumer insisted that an overhaul of the voter count law does not replace larger electoral reforms. And President Joe Biden is expected to advocate for broader federal voting rights legislation when he visits Georgia on Tuesday, a key political battleground and cradle 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 law on free voting

This bill from a group of Democrats, including Manchin and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, brings together extensive changes to electoral laws and campaign finance in one place. The goal is to establish ground rules that all states must follow in the administration of federal elections.

Among its provisions: making election day a public holiday, requiring voter registration on the same day, ensuring that all voters can apply for postal ballots, and reinstating federal voting rights for ex-offenders once. that they are released from prison.

It also seeks to guard against partisan takeovers of the election administration, outlaw partisan gerrymandering of Congressional districts, and force disclosure of donors to deep-pocketed “black money” groups seeking to influence. the elections.

All 50 members of the Democratic Senate caucus support the bill; Republicans dismissed it as federal excess.

John Lewis’s Advancement of Voting Rights Act

The bill, named in honor of the late Georgia congressman and civil rights icon who died in 2020, would restore the power of the federal government to oversee state election laws to prevent discrimination against minority voters.

A 2013 Supreme Court ruling emptied a central pillar of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which required nine states and other parties with a history of racial discrimination to obtain approval or “preclearance” from the vote. US Department of Justice or a federal judge before changing their electoral system. Strategies.

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

Bill John Lewis would change the formula used to determine which states should get “preclearance” for their voting rules. This would extend preclearance coverage to states that have suffered multiple voting rights violations over the past 25 years – an attempt to address the concern of the Supreme Court majority that some states were being unfairly punished for old misdeeds. decades under the old law, rather than the current law. discriminatory practices.

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

The law on the electoral count

1887 law focuses on what is happening after Americans Vote, outlining the process used by Congress to certify Electoral College votes submitted by states.

On January 6, 2020, then-Vice President Mike Pence resisted calls from Donald Trump and his allies to exploit perceived weaknesses in the law and insert themselves into the vote-counting process to cast Joe Biden’s voters list. Pro-Trump rioters stormed Capitol Hill that day to stop Biden’s certification of victory.

Members of the House select committee investigating the Jan.6 attack on the U.S. Capitol have sought to strengthen the certification process as part of their work. But the idea of ​​fine-tuning the law to clarify the role of the vice president has recently gained popularity among Republican leaders in the Senate.

Liberal activists have raised concerns that the new emphasis on changes to the voter count law could reduce pressure on lawmakers to pass the broader voting bills.

“The Electoral Count Act is a great reform,” said Ezra Levin, co-founder of progressive group Indivisble, in a statement, “but it would do nothing to reverse or prevent gerrymandering or voter suppression.

About Michael S. Montanez

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