Democrats want 'illegal aliens and child molesters' to vote
Claiming Democrats want to expand voting rights to “illegal aliens” and “child molesters”, the Texas senator Ted Cruz warned that if Republicans do not block the For the People Act, major legislation now before the Senate, they will be out of power for years. Cruz also said there was no room for compromise, according to the Associated Press, which cited a recording of a call hosted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or Alec, a rightwing group which writes and pushes conservative legislation at the state level.
Democrats say the bill passed by the US House, also known as HR1, is the only way they can counter voter-suppression legislation under consideration in many Republican-held states, aimed at reducing the voting power of groups, many of them minorities, that traditionally back Democrats.
Increasingly, senior Democrats advocate reforming or abolishing the filibuster, which creates a 60-vote threshold for legislation in the Senate and gives Republicans an automatic block in a chamber split 50-50, as a way to pass HR1.
“There’s no way under the sun that in 2021 that we are going to allow the filibuster to be used to deny voting rights,” the House majority whip, Jim Clyburn, told the Guardian this month. “That just ain’t gonna happen. That would be catastrophic.”
HR1 does contain protections for the voting rights of former felons. It does not propose extending the franchise to undocumented migrants, though the Biden administration has proposed to move some such groups closer to US citizenship.
HR1 also contains campaign finance reform, measures to protect voting by mail and to limit partisan gerrymandering and new ethical rules for holders of federal office.
Writing for the Guardian in 2019, when HR1 first passed in the House, Carol Anderson, a professor of African American studies at Emory University, said HR1 was “designed to restore some integrity to a democratic system that the supreme court and Republicans have severely wounded.
“Or, as LaTosha Brown, co-founder of BlackVotersMatter, asked in 2018, ‘Why is it a struggle for us to cast our damn vote?’”
Speaking to CNN last week, Stacey Abrams, a former candidate for governor in Georgia who now campaigns for voting rights, put the issue more starkly still. Republican moves to restrict voting rights, she said, were “Jim Crow in a suit and tie”.
Jim Crow was the common name for the system of laws in many southern states which undid post-civil war Reconstruction and suppressed the Black vote well into the 20th century.
On the Alec call, Cruz reportedly insisted Democrats’ “only objective” was “to ensure that [they] can never again lose another election, that they will win and maintain control of the House of Representatives and the Senate and of the state legislatures for the next century”.
Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections, although the electoral college system has placed their man in the White House after three such contests.
Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3m ballots. Last year, he lost to Joe Biden by more than 7m – and lost the electoral college by the same score by which he won four years before.
Republican moves to restrict voting access are backed by claims of electoral fraud which are not borne out by evidence. Trump continues to claim his defeat by Biden was the result of massive fraud, a lie repeatedly thrown out of court.
Republicans in states including Georgia and Texas are moving to pass legislation that will seek to restrict access to the vote.
Such moves have broad support among conservative voters. Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, a Washington advocacy group, told the AP: “It kind of feels like an all-hands-on-deck moment for the conservative movement, when the movement writ large realizes the sanctity of our elections is paramount and voter distrust is at an all-time high. We’ve had a bit of a battle cry from the grassroots, urging us to pick this fight.”
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