Senate Democrats are pushing ahead with efforts to pass a sweeping voting rights bill that would ensure more Americans have access to the ballot box in their home states, offering forceful rebukes to scaremongering from the GOP.
At a Wednesday hearing for H.R. 1 — also known as the For the People Act — Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) delivered a scathing retort to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri)’s baseless assertion that “chaos will reign in the next election” if barriers such as strict and unnecessary voter ID measures are altered in the voting process and mail-in or early voting is guaranteed across the country.
“Chaos is what we’ve seen in the last years — five-hour or six-hour lines in states like Arizona to vote. Chaos is purging names of longtime voters from a voter list so they can’t go vote in states like Georgia,” Klobuchar said. “What this bill tries to do is to simply make it easier for people to vote and take the best practices that what we’ve seen across the country, and put it into law as we are allowed to do under the Constitution.”
Now Republicans are making the argument that letting people vote would cause “chaos?” No. Chaos is a five hour wait to vote. It is the purging of voter rolls and modern day poll taxes. That angry mob on January 6th? That was chaos. The right to vote is not.
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) March 24, 2021
Democrats in the House of Representatives already passed the voting rights bill this month without a single Republican lawmaker voting for it.
If the Senate committee approves the bill, it will then be considered by the full legislative chamber, after which, if it’s passed there, it will go to President Joe Biden for his signature. Biden has expressed support for the measure.
The bill, however, might not be voted on for some time, if it receives any vote at all — the Senate is set to take a two-week recess starting Thursday. Even then, a filibuster from Republicans could delay the bill even longer.
Democrats are presently grappling within their own party over how to address the filibuster, which threatens to obstruct a number of their legislative priorities. While Democrats currently control the Senate, a filibuster by Republicans would require them to enlist the support of at least 10 GOP senators to pass the bill. Some Democrats are proposing a change to the rules on the filibuster or eliminating it altogether in order to pass the bill and several others.
Former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party have sown distrust in the election since Trump’s loss in November 2020 to now-President Joe Biden, misleading millions of right-wing supporters and inspiring a mob of Trump loyalists to attack the Capitol building in early January.
Indeed, confidence is down in elections overall, driven primarily by Republican voters after the 2020 race. A Morning Consult poll from earlier this year showed that, while 65 percent of the electorate overall believe the election was free and fair, less than a third of GOP respondents (32 percent) said the same.
The greatest danger to elections is coming from several state legislatures. At least 250 bills in 43 state legislatures are seeking to tighten voting rules, make it more difficult to utilize mail-in voting ballots, engage in early in-person voting, and to vote on Election Day.
“Today, in the 21st century, there is a concerted, nationwide effort to limit the rights of citizens to vote and to truly have a voice in their own government,” Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said in a rare appearance at the Senate Rules Committee hearing on Wednesday.
The For the People Act would create a number of federal rules that would block voter restrictions. The bill expands early voting, lessens strict voter ID requirements in a number of states and allows for same-day voter registration. It also requires every state to set up automatic voter registration for federal elections, and to automatically register persons who complete the terms of a felony conviction.
The bill would also obligate states to set up independent commissions for redrawing their congressional districts — reducing the possibility of state legislatures engaging in gerrymandering.