Why are US voting rights under threat and how is the filibuster related?

The fight over voting rights in the US has arrived at a hugely consequential juncture. After watching repubblicani ram through state bills that impose new voting restrictions, Joe Biden and Democrats in the Senate are set to make their most aggressive effort yet to push back.

Later this week, the Senate will vote on legislation that would amount to the most significant expansion of voting rights protections since the civil rights era.

Here’s a look at how the fight over voting rights has unfolded over the last year:

All of the data from the 2020 election points to it being one one of the most successful in American history. Di two-thirds of eligible voters – 158 million people – cast a ballot, a record turnout. About a week after the election, a coalition of experts, including a top official in Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security, described the election as “the most secure in American history”.

Ciò nonostante, Republican state lawmakers fueled an unprecedented surge of legislation to impose new restrictions on voting. In totale, più di 440 bills that included measures to restrict voting access were introduced in 49 states in 2021, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Thirty-four of those bills became law in 19 stati.

Many of the measures impose restrictions on mail-in voting, which was used in unprecedented numbers in 2020 amid the Covid pandemic.

Republicans in Florida and Georgia, per esempio, limited or prohibited the use of mail-in ballot drop boxes, widely used in 2020 to ensure ballots made it back to election offices in time. Some states also imposed new identification requirements for voters both when they request and return a ballot, despite no evidence of widespread fraud. Lawmakers in Georgia passed measures that prohibit providing food or water to people standing in line to vote.

Republicans have also taken up measures to exert control over who runs elections and counts. Election administration in the US has long been seen as a non-partisan job run by under-the-radar officials. But experts are concerned this new trend, which some call election subversion, could lead to partisan meddling.

Even though voter fraud is virtually non-existent, Republicans say their measures are needed to shore up confidence in elections. Polling shows significant numbers of Americans do not trust the results of the 2020 elezione. A recent UMass Amherst poll, per esempio, mal di testa 33% do not believe the election was legitimate.

That thinking belies reality. Much of the shaken confidence is because Trump continues to claim without evidence that the election was rigged. The Republican party has embraced his claims, ostracizing dissenters.

Republicans also point to polling showing that voter ID is broadly supported, and to record high turnout as evidence voter suppression isn’t really a problem. Voting rights groups point out that while turnout was up in 2020, there are still persistent gaps between white and non-white voters. Di 70.9% of white voters cast a ballot in 2020, paragonato a 58.4% of non-white, according to the Brennan Center.

In Georgia, lawmakers have defended the ban on providing food and water to people in line by saying it’s needed to prevent unlawful electioneering.

It’s not clear that new restrictions will benefit the GOP. A study from March 2021 found that vote-by-mail neither boosted turnout nor helped Democrats. Detto ciò, there is still deep concern that Republicans appear to be pushing restrictions in response to an election where more Americans than ever, including a high numbers of non-white people, cast a ballot.

Republicans could benefit significantly from efforts to take over election administration. Election officials often wield tremendous power to set rules.

The Democratic response is built around two pieces of federal legislation. One measure is the Freedom to Vote Act, which would overhaul rules for federal elections and set an expansive baseline for voter access. States would be required to offer 15 days of early voting, same-day voter registration and ballot drop boxes, among other measures. It also would prevent the removal without cause of elections officials.

The second bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, would restore a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, requiring places where there is repeated evidence of recent voting discrimination to get changes to elections approved by the federal government. The US supreme court gutted a similar requirement in 2013.

Il filibuster is a longstanding rule in the Senate. It requires 60 votes to move legislation to a final vote. The Senate is currently split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats but Democrats control it via Vice-President Kamala Harris’s casting vote. Because there are not 10 Republicans who support the voting rights bills, Democrats have been unable to move either.

There has been growing criticism of the filibuster from Democratici, who say Republicans have weaponized it into a tool of obstruction.

Democrats can change the filibuster with a majority vote. The problem is that two Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, staunchly support leaving the filibuster in place. They say it is an important way to forge bipartisanship. And they argue that getting rid of the rule would allow Republicans, when back in control, to exert unlimited power.

There have been aggressive negotiations to get both senators to support tweaking but not eliminating the filibuster. Ideas for such changes include requiring senators to actually talk on the floor of the Senate to hold up legislation, or to richiedere 41 senators to actively show up to block a vote, instead of requiring 60 votes to advance.

Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, has pledged a vote on changes to the filibuster this week. It’s unclear what changes, if any, Manchin and Sinema support.

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