The Guardian: ‘Jim Crow relic’: Senate filibuster stands in way of Democratic voting rights push
The Guardian: 'Jim Crow relic': Senate filibuster stands in way of Democratic voting rights push
As states around the country advance a wave of measures that would make it harder to vote, Democrats in Washington are planning the most sweeping voting rights protections in decades. But to pass those protections, Democrats will have to overcome a huge barrier.
Shortly after taking control of the US Senate last month, Democrats made it clear that they wanted to move quickly to advance a version of the massive voting rights bill that passed the US House last year. The measure would require every state to offer automatic, same-day and online voter registration. It would require states to let anyone vote by mail if they wish and implement new guidelines to prevent states from being overly aggressive in how they purge their vote rolls. It would also strip state lawmakers of their power to redraw congressional districts every 10 years, curbing their ability to draw lines that virtually guarantee re-election.
Democrats are also considering separate legislation to restore a key provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act that would require states with a history of discriminating against voters to get any voting changes approved by the federal government before they go into effect.
Though they control both chambers of Congress and the White House, Democrats won’t be able to pass either measure unless they get rid of the filibuster, a procedural maneuver the minority party in the Senate can use to block legislation that doesn’t have the support of 60 senators.
Democrats are divided on whether to get rid of the filibuster, and it’s unclear whether they will ultimately do so. Those who favor scrapping the procedure argue that it is impeding a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect the right to vote. Not doing so, they say, would amount to giving Republicans a free pass to continue a brazen effort to restrict voting rights and entrench their power amid a shifting electorate that appears less likely to favor the GOP. …
The filibuster also essentially allows a small minority of senators to exercise outsize influence over legislation, thwarting the will of the majority. “It’s supremely ironic that something that gives rural, sparsely populated states so much power already would further kind of entrench minority rule and further make it difficult to access the ballot box,” said Stephen Spaulding, senior counsel for public policy and government affairs at Common Cause, a government watchdog group.
Keeping the filibuster in place and not passing sweeping voting reforms would have “profound downstream effects”, Spaulding added.
“The American people chose new leaders; they want a responsive government,” he said. “To have essentially a minority of senators exercising veto power over the entire legislative process is just not gonna be tenable.”