Lawmakers from at least 20 different states will take part in a “week of action” in favor of federal voting rights bills, beginning with a rally in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
Throughout the week, these state legislators will meet with federal senators and push them to forego an August recess in order to pass those bills.
“We came to Washington, D.C. to demand action and draw the nation’s eyes to the fight for the freedom to vote,” Texas state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer said. “Now, we are heartened to welcome over 100 state legislators from across the country to share their stories and call on Congress to save our country by passing the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.”
Texas state Democratic lawmakers, attempting to stop Republicans from passing restrictive rules on voting rights in the state, prevented a quorum in their state legislature (and thus preventing the bill from getting passed) by fleeing to Washington, D.C., early last month.
Many of the state lawmakers coming to Washington this week are also from states that are planning to pass or have already passed restrictive voting rights laws of their own. According to the Brennan Law Center, 18 states have passed 30 such laws in the past year alone.
The efforts to convince federal lawmakers to defend voting rights is being organized by Declaration for American Democracy, a nonprofit described by The Washington Post as “a coalition of activist groups supporting the For the People Act.”
Although Democrats control both houses of Congress, legislation like the For the People Act has been obstructed by a Senate filibuster. And while many Democrats have called to end this Senate rule, conservative members of their party, such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), have so far refused to alter or end the filibuster in order to protect voters’ rights.
Manchin said on CNN over the weekend that he supports “open, fair and secure elections.” But he also expressed misgivings over the full text of the For the People Act, arguing it would “divide our country further,” in spite of polls showing that a majority of voters across all political ideologies back its contents.
Rep. Martinez Fischer rejected Senator Manchin’s refusal to ditch the filibuster in order to protect the right to vote.
“No Senate rule or tradition should come before our rights,” the Texas state lawmaker said.
Although Manchin has been a main obstacle in passing a federal voting rights bill, the pressure campaign by Texas Democrats might be having an impact. Last Wednesday, it was reported that Manchin was part of talks inside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-New York) offices, where he and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) were seen working together to craft a compromise bill.