By Casey Harper, The Center Square
A fight over voting legislation has reached a climax in Washington, D.C., where Democratic leadership is making passage of laws to federalize elections their top priority by even threatening to “nuke” the filibuster to make it happen.
After questions over voting security in the last presidential election, Republican-led state legislatures shored up voting laws in their respective states. Democrats have now begun aggressively pushing the federal effort to reverse many of these state-based protections against the potential for fraud, led by President Joe Biden. Democratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer gave lawmakers Martin Luther King Day as a deadline to get onboard with the effort, but Republicans, and even some Democrats, expressed reservations.
The federal fight comes after months of state-level battles on the issue around the nation.
Democratic state lawmakers in Texas sparked headlines last summer for fleeing the state during debate over an election integrity law there. They traveled to Washington, D.C. in an attempt to prevent Republicans from having the quorum needed to pass the legislation. The Democrats eventually returned and the measure passed. Like many other bills around the country, the Texas law standardized voting procedures across counties and created extra measures and penalties to prevent voter fraud.
Last year, Georgia passed a similar bill. Georgia has been under particular scrutiny after the red-leaning state went for Biden and then two Democratic U.S. senators.
Georgia lawmakers passed a bill that, among other things, prohibits sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications, secures drop-off locations and puts in place voter ID requirements for absentee ballots.
That law has faced a flurry of legal challenges, including from the Biden administration.
“This lawsuit is born out of the lies and misinformation the Biden administration has pushed against Georgia’s Election Integrity Act from the start,” Kemp said after the administration’s lawsuit. “Joe Biden, Stacey Abrams, and their allies tried to force an unconstitutional elections power grab through Congress – and failed. Now, they are weaponizing the U.S. Department of Justice to carry out their far-left agenda that undermines election integrity and empowers federal government overreach in our democracy.”
These and other Republican efforts to improve election integrity have drawn strong pushback from Democrats at the state and federal level.
In response, Democrats are pushing new voting legislation that would give the federal government sweeping power over state elections and likely lead to overturning many election integrity laws in states around the country.
“History has never been kind to those who have sided with voter suppression over voting rights,” Biden said in a statement Tuesday. “And it will not be kind to those who fail to defend the right to vote. Congress must debate and vote on the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also has been outspoken against Democrats’ threats to change the filibuster, reportedly saying he would force Democrats to vote on a series of controversial bills, such as blocking vaccine mandates, that none will be eager to take up during an election year.
“Less than four years ago, the senior Senator from Illinois said nuking the legislative filibuster ‘would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created going back to our Founding Fathers,’” McConnell, R-Ky., said of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. “Now he wants the Senate to end on his watch.”
Democrats have heavily attacked the state bills, even accusing them of racism. They have also pushed their own legislation in places like New York City, where noncitizens have been given the right to vote.
Supporters of Republican efforts, though, argue that the bills address voter fraud and that federal elections takeover would violate states’ sovereignty.
“As Secretary of State, I fought the Obama Justice Department twice to protect the security of our elections – and won,” Kemp added. “I look forward to going three for three to ensure it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat in Georgia.”
The Center Square is a 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on state- and local-level government and economic reporting.