On rare occasions, the leaders of both parties, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have appeared before the Senate Rules Committee when it met to discuss the People’s Act, or S1. This comprehensive package was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this month and aims to improve access to voting rights across the country.
In defending federal legislation, Schumer criticized GOP-led state laws across the country for introducing bills that limit voting rules. By February, lawmakers in 43 states had introduced more than 250 bills with restrictive provisions on voting, according to calculations by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
This is one of the nastiest things I’ve seen in all my years, Schumer said. Shame, shame, shame.
Instead of doing what you should do when you lose an election in a democracy – try to win those voters back in the next election – the Republicans are instead trying to strip those voters of their rights. She should be ashamed of herself, the New York Democrat added.
Schumer drew attention to bills in the state of Arizona that would prohibit automatic voter registration and same-day registration. He also pointed to attempts by Georgia Republicans to restrict Sunday voting, a restriction that many polling place activists have criticized as an attack on the ballot – programs that help increase turnout among members of the black community, a key Democratic voter base.
McConnell, for his part, said the federal legislation should be examined, repeating the Republican assertion that the package is a federal power grab that Democrats are pursuing for electoral advantage.
This proposal needs to be looked at carefully, and I’m glad we’re all here to look at it, said the Kentucky Republican.
McConnell said the legislation would require rewriting election laws in all 50 states.
Schumer defended the federal government’s role in passing election laws, pointing to the passage of the Voting Rights Act and other important election laws.
The truth is that we have passed dozens of federal election laws and amended our Constitution to guarantee our citizens the right to vote, often on a two-party basis, he said.
The people’s bill contains much of the version passed in the last Congress. Among other things, it would have prohibited states from limiting absentee voting and encouraged states to create independent commissions to redraw congressional districts. The new bill also contains safeguards against foreign interference in elections.
That’s why popular measures like voter IDs are banned in Washington, unless states close loopholes to neutralize them. Meanwhile, an unpopular and absurd practice like ballot collection, where paid political operatives can show up with other people’s ballots, would not only be allowed, but required. Washington will ask all U.S. states and counties to allow same-day voter registration with minimal security, McConnell said. But it would be incredibly difficult for states and districts to routinely maintain voter rolls, such as removing deceased people and those who no longer live there.
McConnell said the legislation is clearly a one-party attempt to rewrite the rules of our political system, but will lead to an even faster implementation nightmare.
CNN’s David Wright, Frederica Schouten, Danielle Diaz and Christine Wilson contributed to this report.