‘You must act’: Over 800 religious leaders pressure Biden to pass voting rights law

Administration faces pressure to act before 2022 midterm campaigns ramp up

John Bowden
Thursday 23 December 2021 22:59
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President Joe Biden is facing more pressure to shepherd the passage of voting rights legislation through the Senate and on Thursday received a letter from hundreds of US faith leaders urging his party to act.

As the midterm campaign season begins to pick up steam and states have released new district maps which appear to give Republicans a greater advantage than before, the calls to pass legislation that would increase federal oversight of state voting laws as a means of protecting the access to the vote in minority communities have grown louder as experts have said that a wave of legislation in GOP-led states aimed at restricting the right to vote will only continue unless the legislation is passed.

On Thursday, a group of more than 800 faith leaders including the leaders of numerous Christian, Jewish and Muslim organisations wrote to the president and congressional Democrats that “[passing] comprehensive voting rights legislation must be the number-one priority of the administration and Congress”.

“Nothing – including the filibuster – should stand in the way of passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, both of which have already passed the House and await Senate action and leadership,” reads the letter.

The Democrats’ voting rights legislation likely has 51 votes in the Senate including that of Vice President Kamala Harris, but faces a roadblock in the opposition to a filibuster carve-out for the issue from two Democrats - senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.

That last sliver of resistance in the Democratic Senate caucus will likely doom any voting rights legislation, as Mr Manchin’s previous public vows to win Republican support for bipartisan voting rights legislation has come up empty handed thus far. Activists are holding out hope that the two senators will reverse their positions in the weeks ahead, allowing for such legislation to be passed and go into effect before the 2022 midterm elections.

A group of Arizona college students recently ended a hunger strike which they began as a means of pressuring Ms Sinema, who represents their state, to support the filibuster carve-out after securing an agreement to meet with the White House on the issue.

Harvard professor Larry Lessig, an elections reform activist, told The Independent in a recent interview that the Biden administration needed to act in the next month to prevent discriminatory voting laws from having an irreversible effect on American politics.

“The threat is that this election [in 2022] will cement the United States as a minoritarian democracy,” Prof Lessig said.

“I’m talking to a lot of people in the Senate. I see signs for optimism,” he said. “I mean, nothing is announced, no deals have been made, blah blah blah … but I think that we’re gonna see progress [in the next month.]”

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