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Democrats Get Arrested to Protest Deadlock in Congress on Voting Rights

August 9, 2021 by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON — A growing list of Democrats in Congress appear to be trying to get arrested outside the U.S. Supreme Court to demonstrate their opposition to legislative action they say would suppress the right to vote. 

The latest was Rep. Al Green of Texas last week. He told CNN in an interview after his arrest, “It’s so important for us to protest for the right to vote and protect it.”

Other protesting lawmakers who have been arrested in Washington, D.C., are Democratic Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, Hank Johnson and Joyce Beatty, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

So far, Democrats have failed to block state-level voting restrictions through legislation.

As a result, protesters plan much bigger demonstrations Aug. 28 in Washington, Atlanta, Houston, Miami and Phoenix.

Their leaders, who include the Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III, scheduled the upcoming protest on the anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington. They are drawing support from groups like Black Voters Matter and Faith for Black Lives.

They say President Joe Biden has not pushed hard enough to pressure the Senate for election reforms. 

The leading congressional bill, the For the People Act, is nearing an expiration to win approval in the Senate in this session of Congress.

The bill would expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of big money, ban gerrymandering and create new ethics rules for federal elected officials.

The heavily Democratic House of Representatives passed the For the People Act on March 8. However, Republicans in the Senate have blocked it through a filibuster.

Key provisions Republicans oppose include requirements for states to offer mail-in voting upon demand and same-day voter registration.

Voting rights took the forefront in Congress and in state legislatures after former President Donald Trump challenged the 2020 election that went to Joe Biden. Trump said the election was tainted by voter fraud that otherwise would have allowed him to win.

After the election, 18 states approved some type of reforms intended to prevent voter fraud. The most aggressive came from Florida, Georgia and Texas.

Typically, the state laws ban mail-in voting on demand, same-day voter registration and rights to vote without government-issued photo identification. Most commonly, the identification refers to drivers licenses.

Mail-in voting is allowed in the states now, but normally only after a showing of hardship that might include disability or absence on Election Day.

Democrats say the state laws discriminate against low-income persons who might not have the required identification or who must work on Election Day, thus preventing them from leaving to vote.

Since Republicans blocked passage of the For the People Act in June, a stream of protests have kept police in the Washington area busy with arrests and crowd control.

Green was arrested when he and other protesters walked into the street to pray. As they blocked traffic, police told them that if they did not move out of the way, they would be arrested.

Instead of moving, Green and other protesters remained, and were arrested. A Capitol Police spokesman explained that “three demonstrators were arrested for crowding, obstructing or incommoding.”

Days later, 26 voting rights protesters were arrested outside Reagan National Airport. They marched through the airport and back outside into the street, where they sang an anthem of the civil rights movement.

“Hold on, hold on,” they sang as Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police approached them with a warning to disperse. When they refused, they were arrested.

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