President to condemn state-level attempts to undermine ballot access as Senate plans to revive voting rights legislation
Garland issues chilling warning to perpetrators of Jan. 6 ‘at any level’
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Atlanta, Georgia to urge the passage of federal voting rights protections, as members of Congress prepare to revive legislation to expand ballot access and combat voter suppression after Republicans have repeatedly blocked several measures from receiving a vote.
Their remarks on 11 January will address the need to pass legislation “to protect the constitutional right to vote and the integrity of our elections from corrupt attempts to strip law-abiding citizens of their fundamental freedoms and allow partisan state officials to undermine vote counting processes”, according to the White House.
In a letter to members of the Senate on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged to change the Senate’s filibuster rules on or before 17 January if Republicans once again obstruct a vote to bring legislation to the floor.
A growing body of lawmakers and civil rights advocates have pressed Democratic senators to dismantle the Senate’s procedural rules, as protests outside the White House and hunger strikes have demanded that the president push his party to intervene. Senate Democrats need the support of at least 10 Republicans to reach a 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster.
Democratic US Senator Kyrsten Sinema has signalled that she is not willing to amend the 60-vote rule, potentially stymying her party’s efforts to protect the right to vote against a tidal wave of GOP attempts to restrict ballot access and consolidate electoral oversight into the hands of Republican-dominated state legislatures.
In the aftermath of the assault on the US Capitol on 6 January, which sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, Republican state lawmakers – buoyed by the same baseless “stolen election” narrative that fuelled the Capitol riots – have passed at least 32 new laws in 17 states to change the rules of election administration and strip oversight from election officials.
Republican lawmakers filed at least 262 bills in 41 states in 2021 alone, and more are expected as legislative sessions resume in 2022, according to States United for Democracy.
Hundreds of election workers and officials involved with the process of election administration have also faced threats and harassment from those emboldened by the same election fraud lies.
A parallel effort saw the passage of at 24 laws in 19 states restricting ballot access, after GOP lawmakers filed more than 440 bills in 49 states in 2021 alone, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
More than a dozen bills restricting ballot access have been pre-filed ahead of 2022 legislative sessions in four states, and at least 88 bills in nine states will carry over from 2021 sessions.
“We must ask ourselves: if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the state level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same,” said Mr Schumer.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on 5 January that President Biden supports a filibuster rule change around voting rights legislation.
“And this is reflective of the fact that while he is a creature of the Senate and somebody who respects the history of the Senate, he wants the Senate to function and he wants to move towards and is open to rules changes that will help the Senate function,” she said.
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