As the states around the country foster a wave of action that makes voting difficult, Washington Democrats plan to protect the broadest voting rights in decades. But in order to be able to hand over these protections, Democrats have to overcome a huge hurdle.
Shortly after taking control of the U.S. Senate last month, Democrats made it clear that they wanted to move quickly to advance a version of the huge voting rights bill passed by the U.S. House last year. The measure would require all states to offer automatic, one-day and online voter registration. It would require states to allow anyone to vote by mail if they wish, and implement new guidelines to prevent states from being too aggressive in clearing their voting lists. It would also deprive state legislators of the power to redraw congressional districts every 10 years, curbing their ability to draw lines that effectively guarantee re-election.
Democrats are also considering separate legislation to restore a key provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act that requires states that have previously discriminated against voters to receive voting changes approved by the federal government before they can take effect.
Although both chambers of Congress and the White House are controlled, Democrats will not take any action unless they get rid of the filibuster, with a procedural maneuver allowing the Senate minority party to block legislation that does not have the support of 60 senators.
Democrats are divided on whether they will get rid of the filibustor, and it is unclear whether they will eventually do so. Those who support the scrapping of the procedure argue that this hinders the one-time opportunity for generations to protect their voting rights. It is said that failing to do so would mean giving Republicans free access to continue their brazen efforts to limit their voting rights and strengthen their power among a changing electorate that seems less likely to support the GOP.
The filibuster should not prevent Democrats from passing a bill on greater voting rights and a new bill on voting rights, said Eric Holder, who served as U.S. Attorney General from 2009-2015. Both measures, he added, “are in great need of corrections and reforms to strengthen our democracy.”
“The reality is that too many in the Republican Party have comfortably manipulated our political system for party political gain,” added Holder, who leads democratic efforts against excessive party political struggle. “The Senate must not allow the filibuster once used to stop civil law legislation to stop critical bills that protect and strengthen our democratic system.”
Stacey Abrams, a former Georgian candidate for governor who helped turn his state blue in 2020, also urged Washington Democrats to completely suffocate to protect voting rights.
“Congressional Democrats must make full use of their mandate to swiftly implement democratic reforms that ensure a fair fight for voters, rather than allowing democratic systems to be used as a tool and an excuse to maintain the same system,” the Washington Post wrote in approving the filibuster’s release .
“This is both a historic coercion and a moment of historic opportunity under the unified democratic control of the White House and Congress.”
The need for these protections has crystallized in recent weeks as record-breaking states have entered into bills that make voting difficult. In Georgia, where Democrats have won record participation for the first time in decades, Republicans are considering measures that will require voters to present their IDs during postal voting and get rid of voting without a rescue. Arizona Republicans, the other Democratic Democrats reversed in 2020, are considering legislation to make it easier to remove voters from the permanent voting list and require notaries to certify postal items.
At least 165 bills across 33 states across the country would make voting difficult, according to a summary by the Brennan Justice Center.
Danielle Lang, a campaign rights attorney at the Campaign Law Center, noted that lawmakers campaigning to strengthen U.S. voting laws now had a duty to see through this.
“Failure to act is not an option,” he wrote in an email. “While we averted the catastrophe of democracy in 2020 – because of the sheer willpower of election officials, organizers and voters across the country – it would be foolish to ignore the warning sirens that were launched.”
The filibuster has a long history of obstructing civil rights laws in America and attempted to block the protection of civil rights, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When Barack Obama spoke at the funeral about John Lewis, a civil rights icon who died last year, he called the filibuster a “relic of Jim Crow,” which must be abolished to pass comprehensive voting rights legislation.
The filibuster also essentially allows a small number of senators to exert undue influence over legislation, thereby thwarting the will of the majority. “It’s extremely ironic that something that gives rural, sparsely populated states so much power would further strengthen minority domination and make it more difficult to access the urns,” said Stephen Spaulding, Common Public Policy and Government Adviser Ok, a government guard group.
Keeping the filibuster in place and failing comprehensive voting reforms would have “profound consequences,” Spaulding added.
“The American people have elected new leaders; they want a responsive government, ”he said. “It will simply not be possible for a minority of senators to effectively veto it throughout the legislative process.”