Hiding Behind a Filibuster, Every Senate Republican But One Blocks Debate on Voting Rights

Statement of Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause President

Every American deserves a voice in our elections, but all but one Senate Republican revealed again today that they prefer to pick and choose who can vote and who cannot in order to gain partisan advantage. Today’s Senate vote was more than eight years in the making after the Supreme Court gutted a core provision of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County and four months since it weakened another pillar in Brnovich. The modern Republican Party still tries to cling to the mantle of the ‘Party of Lincoln’ as it turns its back on voting rights as some states pass a new generation of Jim Crow laws to make it harder for many Americans to vote – particularly Black and Brown Americans.

Every American deserves the freedom to vote, yet more and more states are passing laws to make it harder to participate in our democracy and silence voters on account of race or language minority status. The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will strengthen our ability to cast a ballot so that we all have an equal say in the future for our family and community, regardless of our race or background. The legislation will help roll back much of the damage done to the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts. Together with the Freedom to Vote Act, these bills would address many of the new Jim Crow laws passed in the states.

Today’s vote is the fourth time in recent months that all 50 Senate Democrats have voted to advance major voting rights legislation only to be met with Republican opposition. On the Republican side, only Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted today to even allow debate of the proposed legislation. She is one of ten current Senate Republicans who voted for the Voting Rights Act reauthorization when it passed the Senate 98-0 in 2006. Today, the other nine turned their backs on the freedom to vote. History will not look kindly on those Senators and their Republican colleagues. The Senate loophole long used to stymie civil rights legislation in the 1960s must not be abused again to defend the new Jim Crow laws being passed across the country. It is unconscionable that there are no longer even 10 Senate Republicans today who will vote to have a debate on protecting our freedom to vote.  Senate Democrats must reform the filibuster to pass these critically important bills to protect every American’s freedom to vote.