Reuters – Democrats in the US Senate on Tuesday unveiled a new version of an electoral reform bill that is a top priority for the president Joe Biden, amid a wave of Republican state legislatures imposing restrictions on voting.
Senator Amy Klobuchar and seven fellow Democrats, including moderates such as Joe Manchin, introduced the bill, which would set national standards for states to follow when administering elections.
Democratic senators have said their bill, dubbed the “Free Voting Act,” would ensure that all qualified voters can apply for postal ballots and have at least 15 days of early voting. The legislation would also allow people to register to vote until polling day, which would become a public holiday.
“After the 2020 election in which more Americans voted than ever before, we have seen unprecedented attacks on our democracy in states across the country,” the senators said in a statement.
Michael Waldman, president of the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, said the new legislation “gives a powerful new impetus to the fight to protect democracy.”
Majority leader in the Senate Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said he would hold a vote soon and opened the door for a Republican contribution in the meantime.
Noting that Democrats won the White House and Senate control in the last election, Schumer said Republicans in several state legislatures “are now trying to prevent people who did not vote for them from voting.” .
But with Republicans in Congress accusing Democrats of a “takeover” that would rob states of their ability to shape voting rules, the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate, which is split 50-50 between both parties.
In June, the Senate’s 50 Republicans banded together to block a more ambitious bill, leaving Democrats 10 votes less than the minimum needed to move it forward. Under the Senate’s “filibuster” rule, at least 60 votes in the 100-member chamber are required for most laws to move forward.
The bill would also reduce the ability of states to shape congressional constituencies in a partisan fashion and seek to lift the veil of secrecy on certain election contributions.
Democrats have accused Republican-controlled states of imposing new voting rules to suppress voter turnout on election day, especially among black, Hispanic and youth voters, many of whom are fairly Democratic.
These Republican efforts escalated dramatically after the November US presidential election in which defeated former President Donald Trump falsely claimed he was the victim of widespread voter fraud – an allegation that was dismissed by many. taken over by the courts and by its own Ministry of Justice.
In the midterm elections slated for Nov. 8, 2022, voters will decide whether control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives should remain in Democrats’ hands or be vested in Republicans.
Democrats hold the smallest majorities in Congress.
Last week, Texas joined the list of states enacting new electoral restrictions, which Biden called a “general assault” on American democracy.
The state’s new rules would make it more difficult for Texans to vote by mail and add identification requirements for such a vote.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the law would make it “harder for people to cheat at the ballot box.”
If Republicans again refuse to give the Senate the support it needs to get the bill to cross the 60-vote threshold, some Democrats should urge Schumer to provide an exception to the filibuster rule so that only a simple majority of the 100 seats The Senate is required for passage.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Dan Grebler)