Democrats leverage legal experience in voting rights push

Michael Macagnone, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

Like the voting and election administration bill that did not advance in the Senate last month, most voting rights bills have lacked Republican support so far. At a House Administration Committee hearing last month, Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., criticized the “ridiculous rhetoric, disinformation and scare tactics” he said Democrats have deployed around voting issues.

“It’s all part of an effort to convince the American people that the laws being passed by states are so racist or suppressive that the only option is for the great benevolent federal government to take over,” Steil said.

The House passed a similar bill last Congress with a single Republican vote — Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania — before then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never took it up. This Congress, McConnell has called the measure “unnecessary” and said he would oppose it.

The last Congress’ version of the bill would have reinstated DOJ preclearance of election law changes in many states and expanded the list to include others, including Florida, New York, North Carolina and California.

Pressure among progressives and civil rights groups has pushed President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to act, launching a $25 million expansion of the Democratic National Committee’s “I Will Vote” campaign. Biden cast the effort for a new national voting rights law as “the test of our time” at a July 8 speech in Philadelphia.


At a House Judiciary Committee hearing last month, Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., echoed Republican criticism of Democratic efforts. He also criticized the Biden administration for suing Georgia over recent GOP-enacted voting restrictions.

Scanlon expressed frustration over the way some Republicans approach changes in voting law, which echo conspiracy theories many voiced about the 2020 election.

“If they truly don’t understand, if they truly think these things are true, I would try to help them get the real information, but my fear is that often they’re just repeating talking points, without really understanding the underlying facts,” Scanlon said.

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