Senate Democrats are aiming to pass federal legislation for voting rights. The Senate Rules and Administration Committee held a hearing at Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights on Monday to keep focus on the issue.
“Congress must take action on voting rights, and we have no time to spare,” Senator Raphael Warnock said in testimony before the Senate Rules Committee. “We Americans live in a great house that democracy built, and right now that house is on fire.”
18 states have passed more than 30 restrictive voting bills since the beginning of the year.
“What we did in Georgia, this last election in terms of turnout, should have been celebrated by everyone, regardless of political party, but instead it was attacked by craven politicians, more committed to the maintenance of their own power than they are to the strengthening and maintaining of our own democracy,” Senator Warnock said.
Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed voting legislation in March to limit early voting, restrict the number of drop boxes and their locations, require voter ID for mail ballots, and prohibit people from distributing water and food to people in line at poll centers.
There were no Republicans at the hearing.
“This silly stunt is based on the same lie as all the Democrats phony hysteria from Georgia to Texas to Washington D.C. and beyond — their efforts to pretend that moderate, mainstream state voting laws with more generous early voting provisions than blue states like New York are some kind of evil assault on our democracy,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
Congress members are at odds over the restrictive voting legislation — Democrats believe that the Republican-backed voting bills will hinder people of color during the voting process, and Republicans believe that the new laws will make the elections fair.
“If they don’t like the outcome of an election, they can simply and immediately just take over the election board,” Representative Billy Michell said. “For that reason alone, these elections laws should concern us all.”
“The devil is in the details in these bills, and if you’re looking for evil, you can find it pretty easily,” Senator Amy Klobuchar said. “I don’t care if you are White or Black, if you’re in a rural area, you’re suburban or urban, these rules hurt you — hurt working people that are trying to vote.”
“These restrictions are not meant to solve any real problem observed in the administrations of Georgia elections,” Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff said. “The only real problem for Georgia’s GOP is that they lost.”
Governor Kemp told Reporters during a call that Republicans won’t back down.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s the DOJ, the DNC, or the Senate Democrats, we aren’t backing down,” the Governor said. “We’re going to continue to fight for the truth, and we’re going to stand up for secure, accessible and fair elections.
Speakers at the hearing invoked civil rights legends Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis to characterize their efforts as a fight for basic democratic values.
They said confining drop boxes to early voting locations will limit opportunities for workers to return their ballots, and absentee ballot ID requirements will have a disproportionate impact on Black voters.