House Democrats are attempting a major effort to overhaul voting in the United States with a bill that, if it becomes law, would have a broad effect on the voting process. It is an attempt to strengthen ethics and voting rights by eliminating barriers to casting ballots, lessen the effect of deep-pocketed donors in politics, and attempt to end gerrymandering.
The sweeping changes in the federal bill, H.R. 1 or the “For The People Act,” have a number of functions, but include targeting outdated voting systems and limited voting hours, creating a nationwide automatic voter registration system, mandate 15 days of early voting, ensure restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, require “dark money” groups to reveal who their anonymous donors are, and making voting by mail a simpler process.
The stakes are high, particularly because these have been concerns in places with larger numbers of voters in minority communities.
The bill is likely to pass the Democrat majority House when it goes for a vote on Wednesday, but will likely face a tougher time in the 50-50 Senate. Republicans have objected to the bill, calling it an intrusion by the federal government into what should be states rights. They also feel that it would unfairly benefit Democrats.
"Voting rights is [the] preservative of all other rights, and we have to do everything we can to preserve the voices of the people in our democracy," Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock told reporters on Tuesday, according to CBS News. "I think that the issues are urgent enough to leave all options on the table."
In Warnock’s state, Georgia, Republican state house politicians are making an attempt at legislation that would roll back some of the gains made by Democrats in the 2020 election. The GOP’s bills that would restrict voting access by banning drop boxes, hindering absentee voting and stopping automatic voter registration. Because of that, the freshman senator tweeted the necessity of passing H.R. 1.
Republicans, frustrated by the bill, spoke out about it, complaining that it creates a “one-size-fits-all regulatory scheme on each state,” GOP Sen. Tom Cole of Oklahoma told the Associated Press. “What’s worse, it does this even though states have been traditionally allowed to generally run elections however they see fit.”
Not true, says Stacey Abrams, the Georgia voting rights advocate, whose efforts are credited with delivering the state for Democrats last year.
“Federal legislation and federal courts have been long necessary to permit actual access to voting for millions of Americans who happen to live in states where we do not have those who believe our voices should be heard,” she told the U.S. House Administration Committee last week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
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One of the things H.R. 1 is intended to do is end the filibustering in congress that Democrats say prevents voting rights legislation from being passed. In addition, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act would restore provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.
That legislation has been a target of the right wing for generations, but came after many marched and battled for it to be passed. Sunday, Mar. 7, marks the 56th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in which hundreds were attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., marching for voting rights (BET is scheduled to air the third installment of the series “Boiling Point,” on Sunday, which discusses the events of that day).
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The whole intention is to have a better foundation for voting and remove areas that create unfair advantages and curtail possibilities of voter suppression.
“We should be the gold standard among our peer nations when it comes to voting, but we haven’t reached that point yet,” said the author H.R. 1, Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes, according to The Wall Street Journal. “The only controversy is how it’s taken us this long to address these grievances that people feel.”