Democrats have spent months touting an expansionary proposition that will reshape US elections. But with the bill’s prospects worsening in the Senate, key members of the Black Parliament are pushing to narrow their strategy.
The major electoral reform measure known as HR 1 was passed by the House of Representatives last month, but it has yet to gain unified support from the Democratic caucus in the 50-member Senate. In the context of the GOP’s bid to protest it was seen as a positive consolidation of political power. With Senate logjam in mind, a group of Black Democrats are urging a bill on more targeted voting rights – named and backed by the late Rep. John Lewis – which they believe could be a more successful sale on Capitol Hill.
The reality for Democrats is that the Lewis law will not be much easier to pass than HR 1, which encompasses extensive electoral management tasks. Many in the party believe that whatever party prioritizes the bill, success will require the deregulation of a provision that currently requires 10 GOP votes to get most of the measure through the Senate.
However, many Democrats admitted this week that the voting-only bill named for Lewis had a better chance of bringing it to President Joe Biden’s desk. That bill has more Democratic backing and an outside opportunity to win against some Republicans, relying on past votes to re-commission the Voting Rights Act.
And the stakes could not be higher for Biden’s party as they seek to stop attempts to crack down on GOP-led voters in state legislatures before mid-November.
But CBC members say they want to move quickly. Part of their sense of urgency is that the states will begin receiving summer redistribution data from the Census Bureau for use in drafting new maps for House districts. If the Democrats’ Lewis bill – which would restore key parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act – is not passed after that, some states won’t have to pre-approved for their electoral map. There is no racism.
Those protections were removed after the Supreme Court removed the so-called pre-customs clearance formula of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. That decision allowed multiple states to change electoral laws. without prior federal approval, including a number of southern states that drew criticism from electoral rights advocates. Some Black lawmakers said Congress should bring the law on voting rights to Biden’s table no later than September, because most states will start issuing new maps around that time, during when other states started process.