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100 state legislators go to D.C. to push Senate on voting rights bill

"The freedom to vote is under unprecedented attack by extremist lawmakers in states across the country," said Arizona state Rep. Jennifer Longdon.

Democratic members of the Texas House speak to reporters in Washington, D.C., on July 15 about racial injustice within voting rights and support the proposed For the People Act. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
Democratic members of the Texas House speak to reporters in Washington, D.C., on July 15 about racial injustice within voting rights and support the proposed For the People Act. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 3 (UPI) -- More than 100 legislators from 30 states headed to Washington, D.C. -- joining Democrats from Texas -- to call on the U.S. Congress to pass a federal law protecting voting rights against an assault they say is coming from Republicans sore that former President Donald Trump lost last year's election.

The state legislators are in Washington to take part in an organized "Week of Action," which begins Tuesday. They will meet with members of Congress and encourage the Senate and President Joe Biden to pass the For the People Act.

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The bill, passed by the House earlier this year, aims to expand access to ballots and end partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts. It also includes automatic voter registration for every American who is eligible to vote, as several states already do.

The proposal seeks to enhance federal support for voting security, tighten political fundraising rules for super PACs and ensure the right to vote for those who have completed felony sentences.

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In June, Republicans blocked the For the People Act in a 50-50 vote.

The For the People Act is a response to new or proposed laws in Republican-controlled states since Trump was defeated by Biden in November.

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The laws, modeled as anti-fraud measures, place or seek to place new restrictions on voting and bar certain activities related to voting, such as volunteers passing out water to voters waiting in line to cast their ballot.

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Lawmakers traveling to Washington are calling on the Senate to forgo their usual August recess to pass the For the People Act. The chamber is set to begin its summer recess at the end of this week.

"The freedom to vote is under unprecedented attack by extremist lawmakers in states across the country, including in Arizona," Arizona state Rep. Jennifer Longdon said in a statement.

"Every Democrat in the U.S. Senate should feel urgency to pass legislation protecting the right to vote. We're here to demand the Senate deliver the For the People Act, even if that means delaying recess. Recess can wait -- but our democracy can't."

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Last month, more than 50 Texas House Democrats fled the state to deny Republicans the quorum needed to pass new restrictions that would curtail voting initiatives -- including drive-through and 24-hour voting -- place more limits on mail-in voting and increase access for partisan poll watchers.

The Brennan Center for Justice reported that 18 states have enacted 30 laws this year that restrict access to voting.

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They include a Georgia law that imposes voter ID requirements, limits ballot drop boxes and allows the state to take over local elections and a Florida law that requires voters to produce a driver's license number and state ID number or part of their Social Security number to receive a mail ballot. It also limits ballot drop boxes to early voting days and hours unless it's at the supervisor's office and manned while in use.

"Every issue that we care about depends on voters' ability to freely and fairly cast a ballot on Election Day -- whether it's healthcare, jobs or education," Georgia Rep. Billy Mitchell said in a statement.

"Right now, our democracy is at stake. I'm proud to stand with fellow state legislators from Georgia and across the country to demand action."

Biden has likened the new state voting laws to old discriminatory voting laws, like poll taxes, literacy tests and voter intimidation tactics. He's frequently called on Congress to pass the narrower John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Following his election loss last fall, Trump blamed "widespread voter fraud" for his defeat and his GOP supporters in state legislatures and Congress have pursued the new laws in response. No evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election has ever been presented and dozens of lawsuits filed in Trump's behalf after the election were dismissed.

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