ICYMI: For the People Act Receives First-Ever Senate Hearing, Momentum Builds for Democracy Restoration As Republicans Continue Voter Suppression Strategy

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  This week, the Senate Rules Committee hosted the first-ever Senate hearing for the For the People Act, sweeping democracy restoration legislation introduced by Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY).

Merkley, Chairwoman Klobuchar, and Leader Schumer each emphasized the urgency of passing the legislation in the hearing, while Republican lawmakers resorted to making up lies about the bill in an attempt to explain why they oppose the bill—despite the fact that 67% of Americans support it.

Following the hearing, Merkley hosted an Instagram Live discussion with Stacey Abrams about key provisions of the legislation. In case you missed it, video of the hearing is available here, and Merkley’s conversation with Abrams can be watched here.

Both events underscored the growing momentum for the legislation—momentum that continued to build later in the week, as voting rights groups sounded the alarm over the Georgia State Senate and Governor Brian Kemp’s moves to rubberstamp a massive voter suppression package. On Thursday, President Biden called the ongoing Republican effort to push over 250 bills to make it harder to vote in state legislatures across the country “un-American” and “sick.” Today, the president said Georgia’s new law is a “blatant attack on the Constitution,” and referred to the law as “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.” His full statement is available here.

Here’s what they’re saying:

The For the People Act Would Stop Voter Suppression in Its Tracks (Michael Waldman, Brennan Center for Justice)

…And now, in states across the country, we see a wave of legislative attempts to curb the vote, the most significant attempted cutback of voting rights since the Jim Crow era. The Brennan Center has studied these laws for years and last month found 253 bills in 43 states, seven times the rate of four years ago, and the number is even higher right now.

…These laws affect voters of color, young voters, poor voters. Their intent is often unambiguous. One of the sponsors of these bills in Arizona said the purpose was to make sure that only “quality” voters could vote – not that everyone would have the right to vote. That does not strike me as true to our American spirit.

The For the People Act deals with this in a very important way. It would stop the new wave of voter suppression, cold. It stops it in its tracks, and Congress has the power, the right, the authority—constitutionally and legally—to do this… CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.

After record 2020 election turnout, states look to limit voting options (Chloe Jones, PBS NewsHour)

…While restrictive voting laws apply to all voters, they disproportionately affect people of color, people with disabilities and people with lower-income, Sweren-Becker said. Some people may not have access to broadband for online registration, be able to afford to take time off work to register in person, or physically be able to attend a voter registration drive.

Some advocates say that the true intention behind many of the restrictive bills introduced by GOP lawmakers is to make it harder for historically marginalized groups to vote. Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said legislators are “counting on” preventing some of those populations from voting, as they tend to vote for Democrats… CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.

G.O.P. and Allies Draft ‘Best Practices’ for Restricting Voting (Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein, The New York Times)

…Of the 68 bills pertaining to voting, at least 23 had similar language or were firmly rooted in the principles laid out in the Heritage group’s letter and in an extensive report it published two days later, according to a review of the bills by The New York Times.

The alignment was not coincidental. As Republican legislatures across the country seek to usher in a raft of new restrictions on voting, they are being prodded by an array of party leaders and outside groups working to establish a set of guiding principles to the efforts to claw back access to voting.

…The widespread coordination underscores the extent to which the dogma of voter fraud is embedded in the Republican Party, following Mr. Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the 2020 election. Out of power in both Congress and the White House, the party views its path to regaining a foothold in Washington not solely through animated opposition to Mr. Biden’s agenda, but rather through an intense focus on re-engineering the voting system in states where it holds control… CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.

Opinion: Republicans’ refusal to restore the Voting Rights Act is telling (Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post)

…The Senate Rules Committee opened hearings on Wednesday regarding the For the People Act, the comprehensive bill that would protect voting rights, tackle “dark money” in political campaigns, impose new ethical restraints on the executive branch and ban partisan gerrymandering. In the discussion over its passage and the fate of the filibuster, it is easy to lose track of the need to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act preclearance process embodied in a separate bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

…Republicans complain that Democrats are seeking to “federalize” voting rights; our Constitution already did it more than 150 years ago. The 15th Amendment, like the VRA, is a federal restriction on states. Voting is a fundamental right at the heart of our democracy, and the notion that individual states should be free to hamper, deter or disenfranchise voters is an obnoxious repudiation of our democracy. The real question for Republicans is why they want to dismantle a fundamental, federal right. We have yet to hear any plausible answer. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.

The Truth About the ‘For the People Act’ (Lawrence Norden, Wendy R. Weiser, Derek Tisler, Brennan Center for Justice)

Earlier this week, Jessica Huseman, the editorial director of Votebeat, published an opinion piece in the Daily Beast that — while lauding many of the goals of the For the People Act (H. R. 1/ S. 1) — raised a number of concerns about the bill, including that election officials were worried about how difficult it would be to administer.

While we agree that there are fixes that should be made to the bill, which Huseman herself noted “are doable,” we want to clarify some misimpressions that may have been left by the critique. We do not believe any of the points made in the article undermine our assessment that the For the People Act is an exceptionally important piece of legislation that can and should be passed by Congress… CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.

Georgia Republicans speed sweeping elections bill restricting voting access into law (Kelly Mena, Dianne Gallagpher, Pamela Kirkland, and Fredreka Schouten, CNN)

The law imposes new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water.

“It’s like the Christmas tree of goodies for voter suppression,” Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan said on the Senate floor as lawmakers prepared to vote on the nearly 100-page bill Thursday.

…The bill is part of a larger effort by GOP-led legislatures across the country to pass restrictive voting measures in key states like Arizona, Michigan and Florida. As of February, state legislators in 43 states have introduced more than 250 bills with restrictive voting provisions, according to a tally from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University… CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.

Georgia G.O.P. Passes Major Law to Limit Voting Amid Nationwide Push (Nick Corasaniti, The New York Times)

…In a sign of the high tensions in Georgia, Mr. Kemp’s speech was abruptly cut off after about 10 minutes. A Democratic state representative, Park Cannon, had tried to attend the signing and remarks, but the doors to the governor’s office were closed.

After officers would not let her enter, Ms. Cannon lightly knocked on the door. Two officers immediately detained her, placing in her handcuffs and escorting her through the State Capitol… CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.