DemDaily: Demanding Democracy. Legislators Converge on The Capitol
August 3, 2021On Monday, over 100 state legislators representing more than 30 states converged on Washington to support their Texas colleagues in pushing the Senate and President Biden to take action on voting reform legislation.
On July 12th, 58 Texas Democrats staged a walkout, physically fleeing the Lone Star State to prevent Republicans from reaching the two-thirds quorum needed to pass a new restrictive voting bill.
The Texas battle has become symbolic of Republicans' nationwide effort to pass extreme voter restriction laws which disproportionately disenfranchise citizens of color and underprivileged communities from exercising their right to vote.
The legislators' actions come as a sweeping number of laws have been passed in Republican-controlled legislatures across the country to suppress the right to vote. In 2021, 18 states have enacted 30 new laws that restrict access to the ballot box, and overall nearly 400 such bills have been introduced in 49 states. The bills passed affect roughly 36 million people or 15% of all eligible voters.
The US House of Representatives, which recessed last Friday, passed the Act on March 3, 2021, which would expand voting rights and mitigate some, but not all, of the voter suppression provisions passed in the states.
The Act, H.R.1, would force states to offer at least 15 days of early voting, universal access to mail-in voting, same-day registration for federal races, and stop states from purging people from voting rolls, among other measures.
The For the People Act would also overhaul campaign finance and ethics rules, and ban partisan gerrymandering.The Senate companion bill, S.1, was introduced March 17th. On June 22nd, the Senate rejected debate on the bill by a vote of 50-50 along party lines, shy of the 60 votes needed to surpass the filibuster and proceed.
Senate Democrats are working on rewriting the legislation, including revisions proposed by moderate Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who voted in favor of debate, but is opposed to eliminating the filibuster rule, or making an exception in order to pass the voting rights bill.
Revisions are also likely to include language aimed at shoring up the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was weakened under recent Supreme Court decisions.
In the interim, President Biden has said his Department of Justice will "be using its authority to challenge the onslaught of state laws undermining voting rights."
|"The single most important thing that we have to do is...to protect the voting system, protect the sacred right to vote. It's under assault in ways I haven't seen in my entire career." -- President Joseph Biden|
Tuesday's action by legislators was organized by Declaration for American Democracy, a coalition of 22 activist groups supporting the For the People Act. It followed Monday's Poor People's Campaign protest outside the US Senate, where 200 hundred people were willingly arrested as they demanded an end to the filibuster in order to pass voting rights legislation.
Wednesday's Action: March To The White House, 9:30am-11:00am
State legislators and activists will march from the National Museum of African American History to Lafayette Square to demand President Biden increase pressure on Senators to protect voting rights.
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Sources: Brennan Center for Justice, Washington Post, Newsweek