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‘Shame, shame, shame’: Schumer and McConnell spar over federal voting rights legislation

As the Senate held its first hearing on a sweeping election and voting rights package, the chamber’s leaders on Wednesday used the opportunity to argue over the need for the federal legislation.

In a rare move, the leaders of both parties, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, spoke before the Senate Rules Committee, as the committee met to consider the For the People Act, or S1. The broad package was passed by the House earlier this month and aims to expand voting access nationwide.

In his defense of the federal legislation, Schumer slammed efforts by GOP-led state legislatures across the country to introduce bills that restrict voting rules. As of February, state legislators in 43 states have introduced more than 250 bills with restrictive voting provisions, according to a tally from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

“It’s one of the most despicable things I have seen in all my years,” said Schumer. “Shame, shame, shame.”

“Instead of doing what you should be doing when you lose an election in a democracy — attempting to win over those voters in the next election — Republicans instead are trying to disenfranchise those voters. Shame on them,” the New York Democrat added.

Schumer highlighted state bills in Arizona that would ban automatic voter registration and same day registration. He also pointed to attempts by Georgia Republicans to limit Sunday voting, a restriction that many voting rights activists had criticized as attacking “Souls to the Polls” — programs that help drive turnout among Black churchgoers, a key Democratic constituency.

McConnell, for his part, said that the federal legislation needs scrutiny, echoing Republican claims that the package represents a federal power grab that Democrats are advancing in an effort to gain an advantage in elections.

“This proposal needs all the scrutiny it can get, and I’m glad we’re all here to give it about scrutiny,” the Kentucky Republican said.

McConnell said the legislation would “forcibly rewrite the election laws in all 50 states.”

Schumer defended the role of the federal government in enacting election legislation, pointing to the passage of the Voting Rights Act and other major voting bills.

“The truth is that we have passed scores of federal election laws and amended our Constitution to guarantee the franchise to our citizens, often bipartisan,” he said.

The For the People Act is largely the same as the version that passed during the last Congress. It would bar states from restricting the ability to vote by mail and, among other provisions, call for states to use independent redistricting commissions to create congressional district boundaries. The new bill also includes measures to protect against foreign interference in elections.

“From here in Washington, popular policies like voter ID requirements would be banned unless states neutered them with loopholes. Meanwhile, unpopular and absurd practices like ballot harvesting where paid political operatives can show up carrying stocks of other people’s ballots, would not just be allowed, it would be mandatory. Washington would mandate that every state and county in America adopt same day voter registration with minimal safeguards,” McConnell said. “But it would make it incredibly difficult for states and counties to conduct routine voter list maintenance, like removing dead people and people who don’t live there any longer.”

McConnell said the legislation is “clearly an effort by one party to rewrite the rules of our political system, but even more immediately it would create an implementation nightmare.”

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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