"Failure is not an option."
After Conservative lawmakers in several swing states move hard to curtail those who voted against them in 2020, Democrats announce that the priority is protecting each vote and the election process.
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Since Donald Trump’s monumental defeat in November, the Republican Party has continued to double down on false voter fraud claims to lay further, more extensive groundwork for the disenfranchisement of voters across the country. The targets: cities around the country with large Black populations, and swing states that narrowly pivoted toward Democratic candidates in the last election.
According to data complied in February by the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice organization, Republican lawmakers have proposed at least 250 laws in 43 states across the country that would substantially limit mail-in, early in-person and Election Day voting. The methods conservatives are seeking to utilize include stricter ID requirements, limited hours for casting a ballot and/or narrower eligibility requirements for voting an absentee ballot.
Arizona and Georgia currently have 22 separate bills proposed in each state that attempt to suppress voter access, which is the direct result of the recent Democratic movements in both states to turn out the vote and win pivotal elections. The recent December Special Election in Georgia determined the slim majority that Democrats now have in the Senate, and rather than focusing on reform or providing better solutions to appeal to the electorate, conservatives have focused solely on suppression.
Other potential swing states like Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania are also actively putting forth legislation at the state level to curtail the vote in record numbers. Not to be outdone, Texas Republicans have rolled out more than two dozen restrictive election bills in their state legislature, taking particular aim at early voting after Democrats enthusiastically embraced the practice last year.
These new GOP-sponsored elections bills in Texas seek to tighten ID requirements and voter rolls, limit early voting and up the penalties for errors. After continuing to play up Trump’s false rhetoric concerning voter fraud that was never proven or substantiated, Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared in February that “election security” would be an emergency item for the Texas Legislature to consider in 2021.
Gov. Abbott’s mandate to retake control over the Texas electorate was clear, and while he was re-opening his state’s businesses and refusing to issue formal mandates that provided Covid safety protections for citizens, he was keen to urge lawmakers on Monday to get election integrity bills “to my desk so I can sign [them].”
Texas State Senator Bryan Hughes, a Republican who chairs the State Affairs Committee and introduced a 27-page omnibus bill with several new election restrictions and voter penalties, said election reform was on the radar for Texas lawmakers. "This was already in process, but then the 2020 election was so in the national spotlight, and so many people have questions, so many people have concerns," he told reporters last week. "I would say that has raised the profile of the issue."
Keep in mind that of the 63 lawsuits initiated by Donald Trump and Republicans to contest the 2020 election, each and every one of those claims failed within the court system, and no evidence was ever presented or found that substantiated claims of voter fraud, or dispelled election integrity. It’s also worth noting that in the late 2000s, Abbott created a unit at the Texas Attorney General’s Office with $1.4 million in federal grant money dedicated to pursing voter fraud claims. The mere dozens of cases investigated revealed no large-scale schemes that could tilt elections’ outcomes, according to The Dallas News in 2008.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Senate Democrats announced the introduction of the For the People Act, also called SR1. The comprehensive voting reform bill that began as HR 1, seeks to primarily make it easier to vote and register to vote, prevent gerrymandering and improve election cybersecurity and campaign finance reform. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that the Senate Rules Committee will hold a hearing on the bill on March 24.
“We will see if our Republican friends join us,” said Schumer, “If they don’t join us, our [Democratic] Caucus will come together and decide the appropriate action to take. Everything is on the table —failure is not an option.” The bill faces a substantial uphill climb in the Senate, where a minimum of 10 Republican votes would be needed to defeat a Republican filibuster and move the bill to a final vote on passage.
This is just one of many reasons why the debate over the filibuster process has been recently reignited and represents the difficulty that Democrats will have in passing laws across the board with such a narrow majority. While many progressive Democrats favor eliminating the filibuster entirely, President Joe Biden said Tuesday he supports revising the Senate filibuster to require the minority to talk on the floor to block legislation, after previously indicating a reluctance to eliminate the filibuster completely.
Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) said it succinctly, while giving his first major speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday (see video embedded in the tweet above), “This issue is bigger than the filibuster.” Warnock continued, “No Senate rule should overrule the integrity of our democracy…We must find a way to pass voting rights, whether we get rid of the filibuster or not.”
Warnock continued his passionate plea: “We Americans have noisy and spirited debates about many things, and we should, that’s what it means to live in a free country —but, access to the ballot ought to be non-partisan. I submit that there should be 100 votes in this chamber for policies that will make it easier for Americans to make their voices heard in our democracy. Surely, there ought to be at least 60 in this chamber, who believe as I do, that the four most powerful words uttered in a Democracy are ‘the people have spoken’.”
Senator Warnock received a standing ovation upon his conclusion.
Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @mamasreallyrule.
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