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Democrats’ voting rights plan faces long odds in U.S. Senate

A proposal to reform U.S. elections that Democrats say is vital to protecting Americans’ right to vote hits the Senate floor on Tuesday (June 22), where it faces opposition from Republicans who say the measure infringes on states’ rights.

Without Republican support, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will be unable to pass one of his party’s top priorities: a sweeping election reform bill

that could offset a wave of measures passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures imposing new limits on voting.

“Republicans across the country are deliberately targeting all the ways that younger, poorer, non-white and typically Democratic voters access the ballot. Republicans claim they’re making it easier to vote and harder to cheat in an election. In reality, they’re making it harder to vote and easier to cheat in an election. And we all know it,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

Hours before the anticipated vote, Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock told Reuters that there were “productive” conversations among Democrats but he did not say whether moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, the proponent of a more narrow voting rights bill, had reached agreement with party leaders on a compromise.

Republicans say the state laws are needed to stop fraud, which former President Donald Trump falsely claimed resulted in his November defeat — despite no evidence of widespread election fraud in the United States.

With the Democrats’ effort possibly languishing in the Senate, Priorities USA, a liberal political action committee, said on Tuesday it is dedicating $20 million “to support voting rights efforts through digital voter education and taking voter suppression laws to court.”

Unlikely to garner the 60 votes needed in the 100-member Senate to advance most legislation, Schumer nonetheless has been concentrating on getting all 50 Democrats and independents to unite on Tuesday to open debate on a bill similar to one that already has passed the House of Representatives.

That would require winning over Manchin, who opposes the House bill.

Among Democrats’ goals are expanding early voting in elections for president and Congress, making it easier to vote by mail and ensuring that certain campaign contributions are more transparent. Their bills also aim to remove partisanship from the once-a-decade drawing of congressional districts, which are at the heart of American democracy.

Republicans argue the U.S. Constitution gives states the power to set their own voting practices. But the Constitution also allows Washington to alter those rules, and Democrats argue they are only setting minimum standards for states.

Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill is based on one first introduced in the House in 2019, before the 2020 election and its chaotic aftermath.

“The Senate will vote on whether to advance Democrats’ transparently partisan plan to tilt every election in America permanently in their favor. By now, the rotten, inner workings of this power grab have been thoroughly exposed to the light,” he said in the Senate.

Reuters/Ipsos polling shows that Americans generally want to expand access to voting and many oppose the more restrictive measures percolating in Republican-controlled state legislatures.

A survey conducted June 11-17 showed that 59% of adults oppose reducing early-voting hours, while 25% support doing so.

If the Democrats’ effort fails, new voting controls imposed in states such as Georgia, Iowa and Florida will be in place for the 2022 midterm elections in which Republicans aim to win back control of the U.S. Senate and House.

Court challenges could result in some of these laws being stricken.

(Production: Arlene Eiras)

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