Where We Go From Here
Last night, every Senate Republican plus Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin decided to preserve the archaic and anti-democratic Senate filibuster rule.
Their decision prevented, at least for last night, the passage of the most important voting rights bill in a generation.
By keeping the antiquated Senate filibuster (despite the fact that it’s been modified over 160 times in just the past few decades), Sens. Sinema and Manchin are brazenly ignoring their voters.
But like the great Congressman John Lewis said: “Never give up, never give in.” The fight goes on, and in fact, we are stronger today than we were yesterday.
With our democracy under grave threat, all Members of Congress are now on the historic record as to what they will do — or won’t do — to protect voting rights and our democracy.
We are so thankful to each and every one of you who spent hours making calls, talking to your friends and family, writing letters to the editor, attending protests and community events, and so much more. We put it all on the line – and our democracy is the better for it.
Over the past few months our movement for voting rights passed two federal voting rights bills through the House: what is now called the Freedom to Vote Act, and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act. (For more on what’s in these two bills, read this explainer.)
All 50 Democratic senators agreed to support (and vote “yes”) on this bill. The next step in the process was passage in the Senate, where the bills were brought up multiple times. But because the Senate filibuster rule—which when invoked requires 60 votes to advance most legislation—the Senate wasn’t able to give the bill an up-or-down vote.
Last night, Democrats once attempted to move the bill to a vote – and once again, they were stopped by the filibuster. In response, Leader Schumer proposed a change to Senate rules that would have allowed every senator to speak for as long as they wished – a “talking filibuster” – but once senators finished speaking, the bill would get a final up-or-down vote with a simple majority.
Sadly, Senators Sinema and Manchin sided with Mitch McConnell and voted to protect his filibuster, effectively stopping progress (for now) on the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.
What We Accomplished
Even with this setback, you’ve still made a major impact for the future. We’re going to need the power we’ve built as we prepare for this year’s midterms to stop voter suppression bills in the states, and ensure every eligible voter can cast their ballot in November 2022 – while we keep the pressure on the Senate to fix their mistake.
Because of your activism, we convinced 48 senators – dozens more than we had at the beginning of the year – to show real political courage by voting to fix the filibuster and advance voting rights.
We built strong relationships with our partners in key states like Arizona, West Virginia, Alaska, New Hampshire, and more — broadening and deepening our coalitions in Georgia, Wisconsin, Delaware, and the rest of the 25 states where Common Cause has full time staff.
Activists like you showed the entire voting rights community what consistent, ongoing voter pressure looks like. This is the backbone of any winning grassroots campaigns: not big peaks and valleys of activity, but a steady drumbeat of support and growing volunteer activation that builds and builds.
Together, we called 5,130,423 voters, texted 4,683,893 voters, and sent 657,050 postcards — garnering 45,095 patch calls into Senate offices. We also submitted 6,715 letters to the editor to local papers, with dozens of them seeing print in papers in key Senate states.
This tidal wave of advocacy filled Sen. Sinema and Sen. Manchin’s office voicemails on a regular basis, flooded with calls from constituents demanding action to protect our right to vote.
And at the same time, papers across the country publishing your words about why you were fighting for democracy. Our legislative team reports that this outreach was decisive in convincing key moderate senators, like Senators Carper, Coons, Warner and Hassan, to stand with their constituents by voting to change the filibuster last night.
Where We Go From Here
All of us have an important role to play in what happens next. We know that significant federal legislation takes many twists and turns before change happens — and we are not giving up the fight. We hope each and every one of you will join us in the coming weeks as we:
1. Demand fair representation: We know these reforms are critical to building a democracy that works for all of us — and we WILL be able to win their passage.
To keep the pressure up, we need to support our champions and hold those who didn’t deliver accountable. One of our greatest strengths as an organization and a movement is the power of the people, because in a democracy the ultimate power lies with the people, and we engage all of our members and supporters to hold accountable our elected officials.
This means thanking our allies for fighting for fair representation and urging them to do so again, and making it clear to those who voted to maintain the Jim Crow filibuster that they failed their voters and our democracy.
2. Defend our elections in the states: State legislative sessions are starting in earnest. We are gearing up to stop the expected wave of voter suppression and election sabotage laws. So far, we know of at least 13 bills restricting access to voting have been pre-filed for the 2022 legislative session in four states. And at least 152 restrictive voting bills in 18 states will carry over from 2021(1). That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
We have our work cut out for us, but again, because of the power you’ve helped build, we are going into 2022 stronger than in 2021, with more grassroots power, more leadership and more ability to stop bad laws — and pass positive reforms in multiple states. We look forward to working with each of you to phonebank, postcard, and more to defend and to expand democracy in state legislative sessions in 2022.
3. Protect voters at the ballot box: In 2022, Common Cause will field our largest Election Protection campaign in a midterm election. The anti-voter bills passed in 2021 (and any additional laws passed in 2022) will make it more difficult for many voters to participate. Already we’re seeing these laws make it harder to participate:
- In Tarrant County Texas, 53% of vote-by-mail applications have been rejected because of missing information after the rules were recently changed.
- In Montana, where 70,000 voters used same-day voter registration on the books since 2005, has now removed this simple and effective way to engage more voters.
- In Georgia, elections will have increased partisan control over election administration, bans on giving out food and water to voters waiting in line, banning secure ballot drop boxes that were widely used and allowing individual Georgian citizens to file an unlimited number of challenges to the eligibility of particular voters, which will no doubt be used to try to suppress eligible voters.
Election rules will be changing, and we will inform voters and watchdog their ability to participate with our Election Protection program. We will train and place volunteers outside of polling places, educating voters about their rights, and working to combat cyber suppression. Our grassroots members and volunteers are the cornerstone of this election protection campaign, and your leadership will be critical as we recruit tens of thousands of volunteers — veterans and first timers — to protect everyone’s right to vote in 2022.
Together we can be angry, and frustrated, but we have to do our best not to be cynical. All of us have an important role to play in what happens next.
If you haven’t already – now is the time to join the Common Cause Action Team. Connect with activists from around the country, join in on the efforts above, and be part of the movement that will build a more representative democracy for all of us.