Posts tagged with "Freedom to Vote Act"

Michelle Obama delivers urgent message about this year’s midterm elections

January 13, 2022

Former First Lady Michelle Obama has a message for Americans ahead of the 2022 midterm elections: “We’ve got to vote like the future of our democracy depends on it.”

In a letter titled “Fight For Our Vote,” which was published on Sunday, January 9, as an ad in The New York Times, Obama and her voting rights organization, When We All Vote, called on Americans to continue engaging in democracy amid a historic attack on voting rights.

CNN reports that Obama’s letter—which comes as Congress has yet to move on voting rights legislation at the federal level—was signed by 30 other civic engagement, voting rights and voter mobilization organizations including the NAACP, Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action, Voto Latino Foundation, NextGen America, LeBron James’ More Than A Vote, and Rock the Vote.

“We stand united in our conviction to organize and turn out voters in the 2022 midterm elections, and make our democracy work for all of us,” Obama wrote in the letter.

The former FLOTUS laid out a plan of action and said, within the next year, When We All Vote and the coalition of other organizations will work to “recruit and train at least 100,000 volunteers” and “register more than a million new voters.”

Obama said the coalition will also enlist thousands of lawyers to protect American voters, work to educate Americans on how to ensure their vote is safe, and encourage at least 100,000 Americans to call on their Senators in support of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act—two proposed pieces of legislation that have stalled in the Senate as a result of the filibuster, which requires 60 votes to overcome.

Obama’s letter—published days after the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Capitol riot—referenced the insurrection and the slew of voting restrictions passed at the state level across the country in its wake. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed the chamber will vote on whether to change the Senate’s legislative filibuster rules by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 17, if Republicans block Democrats’ latest effort to advance voting rights legislation.

Citing obstacles to voting access throughout history, Obama wrote that in 2022, Americans must continue to fight for their rights.

“Generations of Americans have persevered through poll taxes, literacy tests, and laws designed to strip away their power—and they’ve done it by organizing, by protesting, and, most importantly, by overcoming the barriers in front of them in order to vote. And now, we’ve got to do the same,” Obama wrote.

Obama added: “We must give Congress no choice but to act decisively to protect the right to vote and make the ballot box more accessible for everyone.”

Research contact: @CNN

Biden to endorse changing Senate filibuster to support voting rights

January 12, 2022

President Joe Biden, in a speech delivered on Tuesday, January 11, in Atlanta, planned to directly challenge the “institution of the United States Senate” to support voting rights by backing two major pieces of legislation and the carving out of an exception to the Senate’s 60-vote requirement, reports the HuffPost.

Coming a week before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Biden’s speech at the Atlanta University Center Consortium represents a follow-up to a speech he delivered last week on the first anniversary of the U.S. Capitol riot—characterizing both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act as critical to ensure that the turmoil of January 6, 2021, is followed by a revival of American democracy.

“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation,” Biden planned to say, according to prepared remarks distributed by the White House. “Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so the question is: Where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?”

Biden, who served as a senator from 1973 to 2009, argues that abuse of the filibuster―the arcane rule that requires 60 senators’ votes for most legislation to pass—has harmed the Senate as an institution and that carving out an exception for voting rights is the best way to protect the reputation and functionality of Congress’s upper chamber.

The Senate is set to vote on both pieces of voting rights legislation this week. While all 50 Democrats are expected to support the legislation, Republicans are expected to remain unified in opposition and block consideration―as they have the previous three times Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has attempted to call up the Freedom to Vote Act.

That unified GOP opposition will almost certainly lead to a vote on whether to significantly weaken the filibuster. But it appears unlikely Democrats will be able to corral the 50 votes necessary for a rule change. Sens. Joe Manchin (West Virginia.), Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) and other moderates are reluctant to change the body’s rules.

White House aides indicated that Biden’s speech points to Georgia as a reason why voting rights legislation is necessary—highlighting how the GOP-controlled state legislature passed laws making it harder to vote after Democrats won the presidential race and two Senate seats there in 2020.

The Freedom to Vote Act is a compromise version of the Democratic Party’s sweeping voting rights legislation, and it would override many of the restrictive voting laws passed by Republicans since the 2020 election and mandate early voting and same-day voter registration. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would restore sections of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 that conservatives on the Supreme Court voted to gut in 2013.

Republicans, up to and including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, had long supported extensions to the Voting Rights Act but ceased doing so after the Supreme Court ruling.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Schumer promises a vote on Senate rules changes by MLK Day

January 4, 2022

Senate Democrats will use Thursday’s anniversary of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to propel their efforts to pass sweeping voting rights legislation, reports Axios.

In a letter to colleagues sent out on Monday morning, January 3, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said the Senate will debate and vote on changing Senate rules if Republicans block a vote on the Freedom to Vote Act backed by Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia). He promised a vote on Senate reforms by Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January 17.

According to Axios, this is the furthest Schumer has gone in calling on Democrats to change Senate rules to bypass Republicans’ obstruction to their efforts to protect or expand voting rights.

Meetings on potential rules changes with senators—among them, Manchin, Jon Tester (D-Montana), Angus King (I-Maine) and Tim Kaine (D-Virginia)—continued over the break and will continue this week, Senate leadership aides say.

“Much like the violent insurrectionists who stormed the US Capitol nearly one year ago, Republican officials in states across the country have seized on the former president’s Big Lie about widespread voter fraud to enact anti-democratic legislation and seize control of typically non-partisan election administration functions,” Schumer said in the letter.

He added, “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? We must adapt. The Senate must evolve, like it has many times before.”

In a final statement of intention, Schumer said: “We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work with us. But if they do not, the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy: free and fair elections.”

Research contact: @axios

Biden is open to scrapping filibuster for voting rights bill—‘and maybe more’

October 25, 2021

President Joe Biden said on Thursday, October 21, that he was open to ending the Senate filibuster in order to enable Democrats to pass voting rights legislation, raise the federal debt limit, and possibly enact other parts of his agenda that have been blocked by Republicans, The New York Times reports.

However, addressing a CNN town hall meeting that night, the president said that ending the filibuster—a Senate tradition that allows the minority party to kill legislation that fails to garner 60 votes—would have to wait until after he secured passage of his spending bills, which are under negotiation on Capitol Hill.

 The president said he would lose “at least three votes” on his social policy bill if he pushed an end to the filibuster. He did not say which senators he would lose.

Biden was blunt about his intentions once the debate over the spending bills was over, according to the Times. He said the need to pass sweeping voting rights legislation favored by Democrats is “equally as consequential” as the debt limit vote, which protects the full faith and credit of the United States.

Asked by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, the host of the event, whether that meant he would be open to ending the use of the filibuster so that Democrats could pass a voting rights bill, Biden said, “and maybe more.”

The president said that activists who are pushing to end the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation “make a very good point,” adding, “We’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster.”

Liberal activists have grown increasingly frustrated with Biden over the past several months as Republicans used the filibuster to prevent action on major parts of the Democratic agenda. They have accused the president and his allies in Congress of being too passive by refusing to change the rules.

On Wednesday, October 20, Republicans blocked action on legislation to bolster voting rights for the third time since Biden took office. All 50 Democrats and independents supported bringing the Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747) to the floor, but all 50 Republicans voted against doing so—thwarting legislation that Democrats say would counter efforts in Republican-controlled states to impose new voting restrictions.

Some Democrats have urged the president to push for modifications to the filibuster so that he can pass an immigration overhaul, address prison reform, and enact more ambitious climate change legislation. If the filibuster remains intact, they argue, Biden will leave office with half his priorities unmet.

“Black and Brown voters are tired of the same scene playing out over and over,” Stephany R. Spaulding, a spokeswoman for Just Democracy, said in a statement last week. “We launch herculean mobilizations to get Democrats elected. Democrats bring legislation to the floor that would benefit communities of color, and Republicans won’t even engage in a good-faith debate.”

“Senate Democrats can no longer divorce the filibuster from the promises and issues they ran on,” she added. “They must act with urgency to get rid of the filibuster.”

Research contact: @nytimes