Voting rights activist Stacey Abrams said Sunday that the U.S. Senate should make election reform legislation passed by the House of Representatives exempt from being filibustered.
On March 3, the House, led by a Democratic majority, passed H.R. 1, a major voting rights bill called the “For The People Act” that has several functions that would effectively overhaul how Americans cast ballots. Abrams believes that the bill is so important that it should be protected from filibuster procedures in which legislation can be subject to lengthy debate.
“Protection of democracy is so fundamental that it should be exempt from the filibuster rules,” Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, Abrams said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The legislation includes targeting outdated voting systems and limited voting hours, creating a nationwide automatic voter registration system, mandates 15 days of early voting, ensures restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, requires “dark money” groups to reveal who their anonymous donors are, and makes voting by mail a simpler process. The House passed the bill March 3.
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For this bill, a filibuster in the Senate, divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, could mean that it dies. But the reforms are too important, Abrams has said, not to move forward. She said that there is no need to eliminate the filibuster, but warned that there are legislators who are attempting to restrict voting rights.
“I don't believe that it's necessary to wholly eliminate the filibuster to accomplish the purposes of passing these bills,” she said. “The Elections Clause in the Constitution guarantees that the Congress alone has the power to regulate the time, manner and place of elections. That is a power that is sacrosanct. We are watching across this country as individual legislators try to use the big lie to restrict access to the right to vote.”
Abrams was also asked about New York Sen. Chuck Schumer’s remarks that efforts by Georgia Republicans to restrict voter access are racist.
“I do absolutely agree that it's racist. It is a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie," Abrams said. "It's not that there was a question of security. In fact, the secretary of state and the governor went to great pains to assure America that Georgia's elections were secure, and so the only connection that we can find is that more people of color voted, and it changed the outcome of elections in a direction that Republicans do not like."