June 20, 2021

House passes landmark election bill as parties war over voting rights

To an extent not seen in a century, America’s two major parties have gone to battle over the rules that govern voting — an intensifying fight that threatens to dominate and embitter the country’s politics.

Skirmishes along the battle line flared repeatedly this week:

At the Supreme Court, Republican and Democratic lawyers clashed over part of the landmark Voting Rights Act. A court ruling that would broadly define the reach of that law “puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats,” attorney Michael Carvin, who represented the Arizona Republican Party, bluntly told the justices.

“Politics is a zero-sum game,” he said.

In Congress, the House on Wednesday night passed by 220-210 a bill that would set nationwide standards for federal elections — a major expansion of Washington’s authority that Democrats say is needed to protect voting rights against restrictions in Republican states.

The Democratic effort aims to block bills in Republican-majority state legislatures that would limit mail-in voting, cut back on early voting, impose new voter identification requirements and take other steps that would make voting more difficult.

In Georgia, for example, a bill moving through the Legislature would, among other things, wipe out a day of Sunday voting frequently used by Black congregations, drastically reduce the number of drop boxes available for voters to deposit ballots and impose criminal penalties on groups that give food or water to people standing in line to vote.

People in Georgia, especially in largely Black communities, have “had to wait in extraordinarily long lines to vote, putting in an entire shift, eight hours, standing on their feet,” said Nsé Ufot, chief executive of the New Georgia Project. A law that would “criminally prosecute volunteers who are providing water and snacks,” she said, “is evil — evil and racist.”

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