Biden calls Republican voting bills ‘the most significant threat to democracy since the Civil War’

President Joe Biden on Tuesday launched a counter assault to attempts by Republican-controlled states to change voting rights laws, blasting the ‘threat to democracy’ and vowing to project ‘free and fair elections.’

‘This is election subversion. It is the most dangerous threat to voting in the integrity of free and fair elections in our history,’ he said, speaking at the historic National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. 

In a 25-minute speech that traced the history of the voting rights movement, Biden veered between attacks on Donald Trump and Republicans who are undermining confidence in American elections and defending his own administration’s work on the voting rights. 

Biden did not mention his predecessor by name but made it clear who he was targeting as he denounced the ‘big lie’ along with the ‘bullies and merchants of fear and peddlers of lies.’

‘The Big Lie is just that – a big lie,’ he said, referring to Trump’s false claim that he won the 2020 election. Trump called Biden’s victory ‘the big lie’ and falsely claimed to be the victim of voting fraud. 

The crowd – nearly 300 people made up of local elected officials, national and local civil rights leaders, voting rights advocates, labor leaders and other officials – burst into applause. 

‘In America, if you lose, you accept the results, you follow the constitution,’ Biden said, referring to Trump’s continual attempts to cast doubt on the 2020 results. 

‘You try again. You don’t call facts fake, and then try to bring down the American experiment just because you’re unhappy. That’s not statesmanship. That’s selfishness,’ he added.

President Joe Biden launched a counter assault to attempts by states to change voting rights laws, blasting the 'threat to democracy' and vowing to project 'free and fair elections'

President Joe Biden launched a counter assault to attempts by states to change voting rights laws, blasting the 'threat to democracy' and vowing to project 'free and fair elections'

President Joe Biden launched a counter assault to attempts by states to change voting rights laws, blasting the ‘threat to democracy’ and vowing to project ‘free and fair elections’

Biden spoke at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, just steps from Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed

Biden spoke at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, just steps from Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed

Biden spoke at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, just steps from Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed

He also blasted a litany of events that he said hurt Americans’ right to vote, including poll taxes, literacy tests, terrorizing voters in the 1950s and 60s, and even a recent Supreme Court decision that weakened the Voting Rights Act.

He called on Congress to pass Democrats two key voting rights legislation, which are being held up by Republican lawmakers. Republicans decry those bill as a federal takeover of elections and defend the bills at state levels as protecting the integrity of voting.

In sweeping and soaring language he made the case that the right to vote is the most essential, fundamental one to America’s democracy. 

‘Perhaps the most important of those things, the most fundamental of those things, is the right to vote freely, the right to vote fairly, the right to have your vote counted,’ he said.

‘It’s up to all of us to protect that right. This is a test of our time,’ he declared.

‘Time and again we’ve had further threats to the right to vote, free and fair elections, and each time we found a way to overcome,’ he said. 

He blasted the spate of state laws that have been passed restricting voting rights.  As of June 21, 17 states enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to right to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice

‘Republican members of the state legislatures are trying to pass 21st century Jim Crow laws,’ the president said in remarks at the National Constitution Center.

‘They want to make it so hard and inconvenient they hope people don’t vote at all. That’s what this is about,’ he noted. 

‘Have you no shame?,’ he asked those Republican state legislatures.  

He described the laws as ‘odious’ and ‘vicious.’ He praised civil rights groups that are challenging them in courts. 

And he called the state laws the most significant threat to democracy since the Civil War, adding that not even the Confederate Army breached the U.S. Capitol building, unlike the MAGA supporters on January 6th, who attempted to disrupt the certification of the 2020 election.

‘We’re facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. Confederate back then never breached the Capital as insurrectionists did on January 6th. I’m saying not this to alarm but because you should alarmed,’ he said.

President Joe Biden greets people as he arrives to deliver his speech on voting rights

President Joe Biden greets people as he arrives to deliver his speech on voting rights

President Joe Biden greets people as he arrives to deliver his speech on voting rights

There were nearly 300 people in attendance and the audience as made up of local elected officials, national and local civil rights leaders, voting rights advocates, labor leaders and other officials

There were nearly 300 people in attendance and the audience as made up of local elected officials, national and local civil rights leaders, voting rights advocates, labor leaders and other officials

There were nearly 300 people in attendance and the audience as made up of local elected officials, national and local civil rights leaders, voting rights advocates, labor leaders and other officials

President Joe Biden talks with the Rev. Al Sharpton after his speech

President Joe Biden talks with the Rev. Al Sharpton after his speech

President Joe Biden talks with the Rev. Al Sharpton after his speech

Biden’s speech was intended as a call to arms as Democrats worry not enough is being done to counter the new state voting laws ahead of the midterm election.  

Democrats fear the new spate of voting rights laws will harm them at the voting booth in the 2022 contest, costing them control of the House and Senate. 

When it comes to voting rights, Biden is fighting a two-prong battle: on the state level where Republican-controlled legislatures are passing restrictive measures and on a national level, where he doesn’t have the numbers in the Senate to pass federal legislation. 

Many of those states passed the measures after Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, when former President Donald Trump falsely claimed he won and was the victim of voter fraud.  

The location of Biden’s speech on Tuesday has deep symbolic meaning. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were both signed at Independence Hall, just steps away from the National Constitution Center. 

The center is also the location of where Barack Obama gave his famous ‘A More Perfect Union’ speech during his 2008 campaign, where he tackled the issue of race, America and a ‘more perfect union.’

On voting rights, Biden is balancing his struggle with the states with his own limitations in passing legislation on a national level. 

His administration is using other tools at its disposal. The Justice Department is suing Georgia for its new voting rights law, which critics say makes it harder for black people to vote. Attorney General Merrick Garland has hinted there may be more action to come. 

House Democrats, meanwhile, passed a sweeping voting rights bill in June but it failed in the 50-50 Senate, where all Republicans united to block it from moving forward.

The massive election overhaul bill was aimed at protecting and expanding voting rights and reforming campaign finance laws.

That June failure increased focus on the Senate filibuster, which requires any legislation to have 60 votes in order to move forward. If left in place, odds of the Democrats’ two voting rights measures – For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act – becoming law are slim.  

Many Democrats, including some Biden allies, have expressed frustration with the lack of White House push to reform the filibuster.

‘I’m not filibustering now,’ Biden said in Philadelphia after his speech, when he was asked about the issue.

Some Biden supporters point out he was elected with broad support from black voters, who are at most risk from the new state voting restrictions. 

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a longtime Biden ally, urged this week that the filibuster be modified for voting rights legislation. 

Clyburn told Politico if the Democrats’ two voting laws don’t pass Congress: ‘Democrats can kiss the majority goodbye.’ 

Biden met with civil rights activists at the White House last week but his focus has been on fighting the COVID pandemic, increasing the vaccination rate and passing a massive infrastructure bill. 

Donald Trump continues to push the false claim he won the election and sow seeds of doubt about election integrity in the United States

Donald Trump continues to push the false claim he won the election and sow seeds of doubt about election integrity in the United States

Donald Trump continues to push the false claim he won the election and sow seeds of doubt about election integrity in the United States

Texas Democrats hold a press conference on Capitol Hill

Texas Democrats hold a press conference on Capitol Hill

Texas Democrats hold a press conference on Capitol Hill

Trump blasted Biden’s Philadelphia trip in a bizarrely worded statement on Tuesday where he focused on an attempt by a lone Republican state lawmaker in Pennsylvania who is trying to audit the 2020 election. 

‘Philadelphia was a cesspool of corruption, which will soon be revealed by the audit. Why are they so concerned that a President, who never goes anywhere, would hop onto beautiful Air Force One and head to Philadelphia if it were an honest election?,’ Trump said.

Multiple audits in multiple states have confirmed Biden’s election victory and shown no evidence of voter fraud.   

While Biden pushing the issue in Philadelphia, the birthplace of democracy, he’ll have help in his public pressure campaign from a group of Texas Democrats, who fled their state on private jets Monday to keep the state legislature from passing new restrictive voting laws. 

The group of Texans were on Capitol Hill Tuesday to lobby for national voting legislation. 

Meanwhile Republicans in the Texas State House voted 76-4 to arrest the wayward Democrats but, by crossing state lines, they have escaped jurisdiction of Texas law enforcement.

Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with the group of lawmakers sometime this week.

It is not immediately clear if President Joe Biden plans to meet with them, but White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, when asked if he supports their decision: ‘He applauds their courage.’

The voting rights battle across the US: Republicans and Democrats go head-to-head on way elections are run with new bills 

Americans turned out in record numbers for the 2020 election, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, but Republicans in many states are marking that achievement with new laws to make it harder to vote.

Republicans claim that expanded hours for voting, wider access to mail-in ballots, and other accommodations made for the coronavirus pandemic led to extensive voter fraud.

Democrats say there is no evidence for that, and that Republicans, after losing the White House and Senate in the November vote, simply want to make it harder for many people, especially African-Americans, Native Americans and others who tend to support Democrats, to participate in elections.

But since January 17 Republican-controlled states have adopted new laws to restrict voting, and more are weighing such actions, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

The fight over the restrictions has drawn comparisons with decades ago when laws were drawn up across the south to prevent Blacks from voting.

The kinds of restrictions Republicans are pushing include:

– Harder to register to vote:

Many states have permitted citizens, if not already registered to vote, to do so on election day with simple evidence of their residency in the state.

But the new legislation in some states demands they register early and do so with an official ID card like a driver’s licence. The problem? Many — according to the ACLU, 21 million people — do not have drivers’ licenses or any other form of official ID. The civil liberties group says ID requirements hit the poor more than others, and can result in a 2-3 percent fall in voter turnout.

Some Republican legislation is making it harder to register in other ways. Political parties have traditionally gone from door to door to help people register; new rules in Florida restrict this.

In North Dakota, one rule that Republicans proposed that was rejected was to require a street address from anyone who registers. That was targeted at native Americans who live on reservations without street designations and largely use Post Office boxes.

– Limiting access to by-mail voting:

Many states expanded voting by mail in 2020 to address the challenge of the coronavirus. They also built on the experience of a handful of states like Colorado that have had universal by-mail voting for years. In the 2020 election the number of people who voted by mail more than doubled from four years earlier, resulting in many ballots being delivered late and not counted until days after election day.

Republicans in a number of states have proposed or passed new legislation limiting who can vote by mail. Georgia cut in half the time allowed to obtain a mail-in ballot.

Arizona proposed to require that every mailed ballot be post-marked five days before an election — ignoring evidence from 2020 that many mailed ballots are not post-marked.

Colorado and other states send mail-in ballots to every registered voter. In June Wisconsin’s Republican legislature voted to require anyone wanting a mail-in ballot to formally request it in writing, with a copy of their ID. That will discourage mail-in or absentee ballots.

Georgia and other states have moved to limit the availability of drop-boxes for mail ballots, also making it more difficult to cast a ballot.

Early voting limits:

Also due to the Covid-19 pandemic, early voting in person was expanded by the number of days and hours per day in many states, helping to expand overall turnout. Now legislators in some states are shortening the number of days and the hours for early voting. That can make it difficult for people who work long hours to be able to vote, which can affect poorer people disproportionately. It can also lead to longer lines to vote on election day, which also discourages people.

Help for voters:

On election day in Georgia last year — as in several other states in many election cycles — voters in largely Democrat, African-American districts had to wait in line for hours. To help them with the long wait volunteers handed out water and snacks. Now Georgia is banning people from providing snacks, while not taking action to make sure lines are shorter.

Republicans also want to prevent people from delivering ballots to election offices for those who cannot do so themselves. This tactic is being used against native Americans who live on sprawling reservations — and who vote largely Democratic, in Arizona and Montana. A new law in Montana bans organized ballot collection on reservations.

Democrats’ desire

Democrats in Washington D.C. want to see federal legislation enacted to protect voting rights. 

Their ‘For the People’ Act created a national automatic system for registering voters and established national standards for mail-in and absentee ballot.

In June, Senate Republicans blocked the legislation from moving forward in that chamber after the House approved it.

That June failure increased focus on the Senate filibuster, which requires any legislation to have 60 votes in order to move forward. If left in place, odds of the Democrats’ two voting rights measures – For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act – becoming law are slim.  

Many Democrats, including some Biden allies, have expressed frustration with the lack of White House push to reform the filibuster.

‘I’m not filibustering now,’ Biden said in Philadelphia after his speech, when he was asked about the issue.

Some Biden supporters point out he was elected with broad support from black voters, who are at most risk from the new state voting restrictions. 

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a longtime Biden ally, urged this week that the filibuster be modified for voting rights legislation. 

Clyburn told Politico if the Democrats’ two voting laws don’t pass Congress: ‘Democrats can kiss the majority goodbye.’ 

The Democrats’ second bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, would:

  • Create a pathway for citizens or the federal government to challenge new voter laws in the courts, particularly if parties can show the new law infringes on minority voting rights. 
  • Require public notice for any changes made to voting laws in a state or political subdivision. 
  • Provide new rules for polling places on Indian reservations that require states to pay for polling places at no cost to tribes. 
  • Require many categories of changes in state or local election procedures to go through a process called “preclearance” — essentially, approval from the Justice Department’s civil rights division — before being implemented.  

– AFP and wires

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