Election Reform Facing Republican Impasse in Polarized Senate
WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans have painted their Democratic colleagues’ push for election reform legislation as a devastating grab for power ahead of its consideration for passage in the Senate.
The bill, entitled the “For the People Act of 2021,” seeks to overhaul the existing elections process by standardizing automatic voter registration, restoring the voting rights of individuals who have completed felony sentences, and allows for sworn statements for individuals affirming their citizenship if they are unable to produce necessary identification to vote, among other measures.
President Joe Biden urged Congress to pass the bill after state lawmakers in Georgia passed a bill that imposes stricter voter identification requirements for absentee balloting, limits vote-by-mail drop boxes and eliminates the secretary of state from chairing the Board of Elections. The Georgia bill also authorizes the state legislature to appoint members to the state elections board and bolsters its authority over county elections boards.
“This law, like so many others being pursued by Republicans in statehouses across the country is a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience,” Biden said in a written statement in reference to the Georgia law. “This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act.”
Republicans maintained the federal elections reform bill overrules existing checks and balances designed to limit voter fraud and fortify election security during a Senate Committee on Rules and Administration hearing last week. While the bill’s proponents during the hearing argued the bill made significant strides in election transparency by mandating organizations to disclose large donors, its opponents contended it usurped states’ rights by imposing provisions that are costly and hard to implement.
The House of Representatives passed the bill along party lines by a margin of 220-210, with every Democrat voting in favor and every Republican opposed. Passing the bill in the narrowly divided Senate will be impossible without outside support from Republicans.
“Under this bill, there’s automatic registration of anybody — if you get a driver’s license, if you get a welfare payment, if you get an unemployment payment, if you attend a public university,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in opposition to the bill during the hearing. “Now, everyone knows there are millions of illegal aliens who have driver’s licenses, who are getting welfare benefits, who attend public universities.”
During the hearing, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner also expressed concerns about the automatic voter registration provisions that would add individuals as young as 16 years of age to voter rolls. Doing so “overrules checks and balances in our election security,” he said, although 23 states allowed individuals under 18 years old to preregister to vote as of February 2019, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
However, the act does not amend current laws prohibiting undocumented immigrants from voting in federal elections. Although the bill does require each state to adopt automatic registration systems, it clarifies only legal citizens are eligible for registration.
In March 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union circulated a letter in opposition to a previous incarnation of the bill, urging lawmakers to strike down the effort. In his testimony at the hearing, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., noted the ACLU’s prior opposition to the “For The People Act of 2019,” although the letter in question called the bill “the beginning of a sustained effort to reform and improve our democracy,” which was unlikely to pass in the formerly Republican-led Senate.
The ACLU commended the previous bill’s commitment to restoring protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which were dampened by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder to disable the federal preclearance process.
The current bill also obligates states to adopt independent redistricting commissions to draw congressional districts and fortifies enforcement of federal ethics law, TWN previously reported. These and other provisions are a response to state-led efforts to overhaul their own voting systems and intend to create nation-wide uniformity in the process.
“At its core, the For the People Act is about three simple ideas: making voting easier, getting big money out of politics, and strengthening ethics rules,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chair of the Senate rules and administration committee. “These are not radical proposals. These are ideas that nearly everyone in this country agrees with. And with this bill, we can make them a reality and ensure that Americans have a democracy that works for them.”
In The News
In The News
WASHINGTON - Former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., who went from majority leader to his party’s presidential candidate in 1996, died... Read More
WASHINGTON - Former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., who went from majority leader to his party’s presidential candidate in 1996, died Sunday morning at age 98. According to a statement released through the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, the former senator died peacefully in his sleep after having “served... Read More
WASHINGTON — It wasn’t even the top headline in The New York Times the day after the decision was announced.... Read More
WASHINGTON — It wasn’t even the top headline in The New York Times the day after the decision was announced. That distinction went to the death of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who had died at age 64 after suffering a heart attack at his ranch... Read More
WASHINGTON — The White House Correspondents’ Association is laying the groundwork for the return of its annual dinner in 2022,... Read More
WASHINGTON — The White House Correspondents’ Association is laying the groundwork for the return of its annual dinner in 2022, after COVID-19 and related public gathering restrictions forced the cancellation of the past two events. The upcoming WHCA dinner will be held at the Washington Hilton... Read More
WASHINGTON — Federal regulators have signed off on a proposal to build a wind farm off the coast of Rhode... Read More
WASHINGTON — Federal regulators have signed off on a proposal to build a wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island. The South Fork Wind Project is the second commercial-scale, offshore wind energy project approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The approximately 130 megawatt... Read More
SAN ANTONIO — A Texas law restricting the teaching of critical race theory principles in public schools went into effect... Read More
SAN ANTONIO — A Texas law restricting the teaching of critical race theory principles in public schools went into effect on Thursday after being enacted by Gov. Greg Abbott in June. The new law compels public school teachers to not discuss issues of controversy that encompass... Read More
WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Washington has set a deadline for next week seeking information in a top Defense... Read More
WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Washington has set a deadline for next week seeking information in a top Defense Department official's lawsuit over why she was released from her job after first losing her security clearance. Katie Arrington oversaw cybersecurity for defense contractors when she... Read More