Democrats Are Running Out of Time to Pass Voting Rights Legislation

Racial justice leaders have warned Democrats not to leave Senate this year without passing landmark voting rights bills. As new restrictions on voting go into effect in all 50 states, they are urging them to do so.

Texas has been the focus of all eyes lately. lawsuitThe Justice Department filed this week a claim that new electoral maps were drawn and adopted by Republicans. aggressively diluteThe voting power of communities of colour. Advocates for the decennial redefinition of Texas’ electoral maps. other statesWhere lawmakers were designed extreme gerrymandersIt is clear that the Senate has to act quickly to pass the voting rights legislation.

The 200 pro-democracy organizations that formed the coalition recently urgedDemocrats will postpone the winter recess to allow the voting rights bills to pass the Senate. Republicans have blocked votes on the legislation multiple time due to current filibuster regulations. A few conservative Democrats, such as Sen. Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona and Joe Manchin, West Virginia, continue to oppose filibuster Reform, which makes it impossible for most legislation to be passed without the support of at least 10 Republicans.

The coalition wrote to Senate Democrats pointing out the 33 laws that were passed in 19 states in 2021, which restrict access to the ballot. More legislation are likely to be passed next year. Texas Republicans passed one the most restrictive laws. onerous new requirementsInternational fears of voter intimidation have been raised by the empowerment of partisan poll watchers.

“At the same time, state lawmakers across the country are currently gerrymandering legislative maps to choose which voters they represent, instead of the other way around,” the groups wroteReferring to the current redistricting cycle.

While the Senate Democrats focus on other priorities, they also consider a bloated defense and government budgets, critical funding, and $2.1 billion in social and climate spending, which President Joe Biden is trying to pass before the holidays. The Senate is scheduled to adjourn on 12/12 and return in January. However, lawmakers have the option to extend the current session if necessary.

Polls suggest that many Republican voters continue to believe former President Donald Trump’s lies about a stolen election, and GOP operatives claim they are winning the debate over voting as the year comes to an end.

Maurice Mitchell is the national director of Working Families Party and a leader in the Movement for Black Lives. He said that lawmakers can’t simply blame the filibuster for not taking action on voting rights. The Senate makes its own filibuster rules. Senate Republicans modified the rules a few years back to allow for the passage of Supreme Court nominees.

If Democrats could rally behind Biden’s American Rescue Plan despite unanimous Republican opposition earlier this year, Mitchell said, then they can also rally to protect democracy before the 2022 midterm elections.

“Where there is political will, they can figure out the way,” Mitchell said in an interview.

Since January’s Congress meeting, the momentum behind voting rights bills has waned. Trump was trying to reverse the election result in court and his supporters attacked Congress to try to overthrow it. According to Mitchell, Democrats won the White House with a huge turnout from Black grassroots activists and a slim majority at the Senate. This left them with a mandate that they support the rights of voters.

“Some Democrats have argued that what working people and Black people and other people of color who are going to face the brunt of this … need to do is out-organize voter suppression, and I think that is outrageous,” Mitchell said.

Since January 25 states expanded access to the ballot while the two federal voting rights bills — the Freedom to Vote ActThe John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — made their way through Congress before hitting the GOP blockade in the Senate. Meanwhile, Republicans in control state legislatures passed broad voting restrictions and moved to consolidate partisan control of election administration in the name of “election integrity,” fueled by Trump’s debunked claims of voter fraud.

Experts sayBoth Democrats and Republicans want to maximize their political power by gerrymandering. However, Republicans control redistricting in more states than Democrats as they attempt to regain control over Congress. In many cases, communities of color “are emerging as principal targets” of “especially brazen” redistricting plans, accordingTo the Brennan Center for Justice.

These federal voting rights bills are intended to counter such partisan efforts by swinging elections by establishing federal standards to vote, redistricting, campaign finance, and voting while also restoring and strengthening 1965’s Voting Rights Act.

Republicans claim both bills would lead to federal overreach in elections, which are administered locally and state-run. The Voting rights Act provided federal oversight for elections to prevent racial disparity. This oversight was in place for nearly 50 years, but it was severely curtailed by the Supreme Court.

Texas, a state with a long and proud history, is an example. of racist voter suppression. In every redistricting cycle since the law was passed, courts found that at least one of the state’s electoral maps violated the Voting Rights Act or the Constitution, according to the Justice Department. The department’s lawsuit against the latest statewide electoral maps in Texas claims this longstanding tradition of racial gerrymandering continues today.

For example, 95 percent of Texas’ population growth is made up of people of color. However, the state has been awarded two additional seats in the House. The two new congressional districts, which were created by Republicans in Austin, Houston, are majority-white.

Texas and other southern States were required by the Voting rights Act to submit any changes to voting and elections for review by the federal governments. This was due to Texas’ racist history. landmark ruling by an increasingly conservative Supreme Court gutted the “pre-clearance” clause of the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court’s subsequent rulings have further erodedThe Voting Rights Law

If preclearance had been in place, Texas would have submitted its redistricting plan to federal review. The maps that are being accused of diluting non-white voters’ electoral power may not have become law as quickly. Instead, the Justice Department is now seeking to enforce the Voting Rights Act in court after many of the law’s strongest protections against racial discrimination have been dismantled.

“While we are grateful for the involvement of the federal government, what we need to stop the five-decade cycle of having to take legal action every ten years is for Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act,” said Anthony Gutierrez, director of the democracy reform group Common Cause Texas, in a statement.

According to the original Voting rights Act interpretation, voter suppression laws from Florida, Texas, Georgia and Texas would have been subject to federal scrutiny before being implemented this year. In the absence of preclearance voting rights lawyers are challenging the states in court over laws already signed by Republican governors.

“Preclearance made it manageable to prevent these things from happening in the first place,” Mitchell said.

Together, the two voting rights bills in the hands of Senate Democrats would restore preclearance under the Voting Rights Act while updating the formula for determining which states must comply due to voter discrimination in the past, as the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling that gutted preclearance encouragedCongress must do.

Mitchell said that many of the conditions that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 still exist today as politicians continue shaping elections around their “racial political interests.” Without federal protections and oversight, Mitchell said, voting rights attorneys and Democrats in the Justice Department will be playing a game of whack-a-mole, with state politicians continually attempting to make it harder to vote or redraw district lines to maximize their party’s chance of winning, often at the expense of marginalized voters.

The question now is whether Democrats will find the political will to respond to activists’ demands with a voting rights overhaul before the end of the year.

“What we thought would happen, did happen … and the end result has been less accountability, less access to the franchise, and less power for communities that have historically been disempowered,” Mitchell said.