Exploring the dueling partisan efforts on voting reform

Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 1:04 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - There are dueling proposals between state GOP leaders and congressional Democrats to revamp the U.S voting system.

In a nationwide movement, state lawmakers are considering hundreds of bills to restrict voting access in 43 states, according to a report conducted by NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice.

In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds recently signed a Republican-backed bill that limits voting by mail and early voting. It threatens criminal charges against county auditors who depart from state election guidance and will allow for the removal of many inactive voters from the rolls.

In Georgia, Republican lawmakers in the state House passed a bill that would require photo ID for absentee voting, limit the amount of time voters have to request an absentee ballot and restrict where drop boxes could be located. The legislation now moves to the state Senate for consideration.

Advocates for many of the state-led proposals say the measures will strengthen election security. The Republican National Committee offered the following statement defending a state’s right to make election policy decisions.

  • “The RNC remains laser focused on protecting election integrity, and that includes aggressively engaging at the state level on voting laws and litigating as necessary. Democrats have abandoned any pretense that they still care about election issues such as voter roll maintenance and restricting ballot harvesting that were once welcomed as reasonable and routine. The reality is that we want all eligible voters to be able to vote and vote easily—but voters must also have confidence that our elections systems have safeguards to prevent fraud and ensure accuracy.” - RNC National Press Secretary Mandi Merritt

However, critics like Stephen Spaulding with the watchdog group Common Cause, call it voter suppression.

“In the wake of that record turn-out, we are seeing a backlash in some states that are looking to really curtail that access to the ballot box,” said Spaulding.

In Washington, there’s a dueling effort by Congressional Democrats intended to expand voter access. The “For the People Act”, or H.R.1, is a sweeping reform bill that could put an end to those state voting restrictions.

“It sets a national uniform standard,” said Spaulding. “So, no matter what zip code you live in, you will have access to those basic standards like two weeks of early voting, vote by mail if you want to do it, and automatic voter registration.”

H.R.1, which passed the U.S House of Representatives, would also limit removing voters from the rolls and would restore voting rights for felons, but not one Republican appears to be on board.

Calling it a “power-grab,” Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) says the legislation will take constitutional authority away from the states.

“The rules are clearly the domain of state legislatures,” said Hagerty. “It’s not ever supposed to be in the domain of the federal government.”

President Biden has announced his support for H.R.1, but the bill is unlikely to win enough support for passage in the Senate unless Democrats make the move to eliminate the filibuster.

The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration is holding a hearing on the legislation next week.

You can read a summary of the bill here.

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