‘The only common motivation running through the whole proposal seems to be this—Democrats searching for ways to give Washington politicians more control …’
(William Douglas, McClatchy Washington Bureau) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that Democratic-led efforts to strengthen voting rights laws are no more than a partisan “power grab.”
Democrats are pushing a workaround bill that among other things would reinstate the voting rights laws ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013.
In the Senate, where Republicans still control the agenda, McConnell was adamant that no fix is needed.
“The only common motivation running through the whole proposal seems to be this—Democrats searching for ways to give Washington politicians more control over what Americans say about them and how they get people elected,” the Kentucky Republican said in a Senate floor speech.
“It’s an attempt to rewrite the rules … in order to benefit one over the other,” he said.
McConnell spoke as the House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on the Democratic voting bill, designated HR 1 and called the “For the People Act of 2019.”
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the changes are needed after the Supreme Court struck down key provisions in the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required some or all of 15 states and jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination at the polls to get federal approval, or pre-clearance, before changing their rules regarding voting.
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia were subject to the preclearance provision as well as local jurisdictions in California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota.
“Predictably, some states wasted no time in enacting discriminatory voter suppression laws in the wake of the Shelby County decision,” Nadler said at Tuesday’s hearing. “It does not help that President [Donald] Trump has encouraged conspiracy theories about massive voter fraud as a justification for voter identification laws, and other voter suppression tactics.”
Trump claimed that Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election by 3 million votes because of massive voter fraud. He formed a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in 2017 and appointed then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach its vice chairman, but the panel was later disbanded.
The 2018 elections were punctuated by allegations of voter suppression and election fraud. In Georgia, Democrats and liberal activists complained with scant evidence that Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp aided his campaign by cutting hundreds of thousands of mostly minority voters from the rolls as he oversaw elections as secretary of state.
He went on to beat Democrat Stacey Abrams, although Abrams did not concede until Nov. 17 when it became clear that recounts would not swing her way.
Voters in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District still do not have House representation because the election hasn’t been certified amid allegations of election fraud by Republican Mark Harris’ campaign. State Republicans have pointed to the fact that the systemic fraud in Bladen County had for many years favored the Democrats, and that the corrupt former chair of the State Board of Elections, a Democrat, was both aware of and involved in potential ballot harvesting operations.
Likewise, in California, ballot harvesting recently legalized by former Gov. Jerry Brown allowed Democrats to overturn the election-night victories of several Republicans in Congress.
In Florida, the recounts of two prominent races—the narrow victories of Sen. Rick Scott and Gov. Ron DeSantis—brought to attention the very suspicious circumstances surrounding Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes.
And in Texas it was revealed this week that nearly 100,000 non-citizen immigrants may have been included on the voting roles after falsely claiming American citizenship, with half having potentially voted in the 2018 election.
Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, who has been designated chairwoman of a new House subcommittee on elections, plans to hold field hearings in states to build a “record” of elections violations necessary to update the pre-clearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act.
She told McClatchy in December that those states include North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Ohio and North Dakota.
“Voting and the ability to participate in our democracy issue, a racial justice issue, a civil rights issue, and we are overdue for change,” Vanita Gupta, president and chief executive officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told the Judiciary Committee.
McConnell seized on the North Carolina election situation to show what he called deficiencies in the Democratic bill.
“It is suspiciously silent on the murky ballot harvesting practices that recently threw North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District into total chaos,” he said. “Pages and pages rewriting election law but nothing on this actual problem?”
The Supreme Court, in its 5-4 ruling in 2013, said that part of the Voting Rights Act must be updated to account for how times have changed since Congress first wrote the legislation. The justices urged lawmakers to revisit the law.
Efforts to do so went nowhere in a Republican-controlled Congress. Former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., declined to move a bipartisan bill that was crafted to address the court’s concern.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the House Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, said Tuesday that the new Democratic bill would “federalize elections in ways that have nothing to do with outlawing discrimination.”
Collins charged the bill “actually disenfranchises state voters” and “siphons power from state legislatures, local elected officials and voters and cedes powers to Washington lawmakers, unelected judges, and lawyers.”
Chris Adams, president and general counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative nonprofit organization that focuses on election laws, said some of the Democratic bill’s provisions aren’t necessary. He said voting in America has never been easier.
“In fact, it is difficult to avoid opportunities to register and vote,” Adams told the committee. “Americans are offered registration in social service agencies, post offices, county courthouses, outside of grocery stores … in jails, online, in high schools, in church … at Lollapalooza … even in drug treatment facilities.”
Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.
(c)2019 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.