Vice President Kamala Harris Says Texas is Key Example of Need for New Federal Election Law
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Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday highlighted pressure from Republicans in Texas to sweep away new voting restrictions as a key illustration of the need to restore federal election monitoring.
In a White House meeting with a group of Democratic members of the Texas Legislature, Harris highlighted the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling to overturn the cornerstone of the landmark Human Rights Act. voting rights that kept states like Texas under “preclearance” of its voting laws to protect the rights of voters of color – a move Democrats hope to bring back with new federal legislation.
“We saw exactly what we feared when this case fell in 2013. Because this case opened a door for states to do what we otherwise protected ourselves from, which is for states to put laws in place. designed, in many cases. case quite intentionally, to make it difficult for people to vote, ”said Harris. “And so that’s what we’ve seen time and time again, and what’s going on in Texas right now is, of course, a very clear and current example of that.”
Harris’ remarks came at the start of a meeting with 16 Democratic members of the Texas Legislature. The vice president, who leads the Biden administration’s voting rights efforts, invited lawmakers to the White House after state officials staged an 11th hour strike on Capitol Hill in May. state to break the quorum and prevent a final vote on what is considered one of the most restrictive GOP-backed state ballot bills after the 2020 election.
The Democrat-defeated bill, Senate Bill 7, would have made sweeping changes to the Texas election by restricting voting times, reducing election control by local officials, further tightening election rules. postal voting and increasing access for observers who support the polls, among other provisions. .
This is just one of a series of Republican-backed bills that have been proposed in state legislatures across the country following the 2020 election in which former President Donald Trump pushed for false and baseless allegations of electoral fraud. In Texas, Republicans have defended SB 7 as a “electoral integrity” measure intended to combat fraudulent votes, even though there is no evidence of widespread fraud.
In a series of meetings with U.S. senators and congressional leaders, Democrats used the trip – and the national attention their quorum break-up sparked – to push for a pair of federal law that could prejudge parts of Texas law that they have temporarily prevented from becoming law. and restore extensive protections for voters of color. With Republicans in full control of the Legislature, Gov. Greg Abbott has pledged to recall lawmakers this summer for a special legislative session to pass the bill.
The sweeping federal law for the people would overhaul elections, forcing states like Texas to offer same-day automatic voter registration. By law, Texas is also expected to drop its strict eligibility requirements for postal voting, among several other changes to state law. John Lewis’s narrower Advancement Act could put Texas back under federal scrutiny so its election laws cannot come into effect before the federal government ensures they don’t undermine voting rights of people of color.
As part of the preclearance, various sets of political maps and voting restrictions were suspended, with federal courts repeatedly finding that Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated against voters of color during their development.
“The many Democratic lawmakers here today in Washington, DC are the latest in a long line of Texans who have come to our nation’s capital to fight for election access and equality and to demand federal oversight in order to protect the right to vote. State Representative Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, said in a statement after the meeting. “Two weeks ago in our State Capitol, Democrats in the Texas House and Senate united to prevent a harmful voter suppression measure from becoming law. We have done our part. Now we need Congress to do theirs. “
While several Texas Democrats have expressed hope this week that their trip to Washington has furthered the ball by passing the legislation, there is little evidence that their efforts will do anything to break the Republicans’ grip on the Republicans. advancement of the democratic agenda.
While the For the People Act has passed the House, these are short Democratic votes in the US Senate. Both laws also face a procedural obstacle from the Senate known as systematic obstruction, which sets a threshold of 60 votes for putting the law to a vote. Democrats have not been able to overcome this demand, and two Democratic senators – American sense Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona – remain resistant to removing the filibuster.
“We know we have a big challenge ahead of us and therefore a fight, which is to fight for the right of every American,” Harris said Wednesday, flanked by Thompson and State Representative Gina Hinojosa from Austin in the Roosevelt Hall.
Abby Livingston contributed to this report.