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tv   U.S. Senate Sen. Warren on Voting Rights  CSPAN  January 19, 2022 8:12am-9:22am EST

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mimicking the president of the united states last week in georgia, i want my colleagues to come and answer this simple question, a verye simple question. why should we listen to you? why should any american take you seriously? when so many of you come from states with the most restrictive voting laws in america. i wonder if any of my colleagues will come down to the floor, particularly those like the majority leader, who loved to rant about jim crow 2.0, when their states are leading the charge in america on restrictive voting? i yield the floor. >> thank you, madam president. i want to say a very special thank you to my colleague, the senator from y oregon.
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senator merkley has worked harder and more persistently on questions about the filibuster and the procedures of the united states senate for years now, and tried to lead us to a more functional situation than we are in right now. i want to thank him for his leadership. i know that tonight must be frustrating for him because he has tried so hard to get us to a better place, but i very much appreciate all that heer has do. and to the extent we make progress, we make progress in no small part because of your leadership, so thank you. madam president, i rise today to urge the senate to take action to protect voting rights and to defend our democracy. voting is foundational to our democracy. in a strong, functioning democracy the playing field is leveled. citizens have a right to vote
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and neither one side or the other has the right to block those voters from the ballot box or from getting their votes counted. that basic premise no longer nthold in america. let's be blunt. american democracy is under attack from republican politicians. in the past year alone, republicans state legislatures have passed laws in nearly 20 states to restrict american citizens right to vote. the republican nominees to the supreme court have destroyed long-standing protections against politics. they have given the green light to partisan gerrymandering, and they have gutted the voting rights act. republican dark money networks b are bankrolling voter suppression efforts with hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying and advertising. and for years and years,
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republican donald trump and republican politicians have spread lies about the integrity of our elections. last january 6, republican president backed up by republicans right here in the senate provoked a deadly insurrection at our nation's capital. and in the intervening years, republican leaders have refused to accept evidence of president biden's 7 million vote victory over donald trump. instead, they have fed conspiracies and lies that further undermine our democracy. yes, american democracies under attack. and today 50 democratic senators agree on the right to response to this tactic the freedom to vote act would guarantee that every american citizens can easily vote and get their vote
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counted. the act would defend against attempts to overturn the will of the people. the act would reform our broken campaign finance system and help root out dark money, and critically important, the act would ban partisan gerrymandering by either side. the companion bill, the john lewis voting rights advancement act, would restore historic protections against state laws that have the purpose and the affect of discriminating on the basis of race. unfortunately, senate republicans would rather destroy our democracy then have free and fair elections. and so they support those around the country who are trying to block access to voting, and you are trying to rig how votes get counted. elections are about the will of the majority, but republicans in
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the senate don't want what a majority of americans want. in fact, the 50 republicans in the senate together represent 41.5 million fewer americans than the democratic majority. they want to take a simple vote to protect american citizens access to the pulse, , they want to stop legislation to defend the very foundation of our democracy from even getting a vote on the floor of the senate. let me be clear. my view on this is that the filibuster has no place in our democracy. our founders believed deeply in protections for the minority, and those are enshrined in the constitution and in the structure of congress. but our founders made it clear that after extended debate the majority could always get a vote. and that final vote, except in the caseld of the treaties and
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impeachment, would always be by simple majority. the founders did not add a filibuster. with two exceptions, they insisted on playing old majority rule here when the senate changed its rules a decade later, the filibuster became the favored tool of racists and segregationists. the filibuster preserved jim crow laws and stalled civil rights legislation for decades. the filibuster help block the passage of anti-lynching legislation for over 100 years. the filibuster nearly stop congress from passing the most important voting rights law in our nation's history, the voting rights act of 1965. today's filibuster does not foster bipartisanship and compromise. in fact, the exact opposite is
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true. the filibuster has been weaponized to intensify partisan division. the filibuster is a wicked tool used to kill legislation supported by the majority of americans of all political parties, and that's true for protecting the right to vote, gun safety legislation and immigration reform and codifying roe v. wade. the filibuster thwarts the will ofts the people. today's filibuster doesn't encourage debateen here it promotes cowardice. senators can torpedo bills without saying a single word in public. or even stepping to the floor of the united states senate. this is not how a so-called deliberative body should operate. senators should be required to talk and vote instead of hiding
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behind a rule. they should have to put skin in the game. if republicans are fine with the wave of anti-voter laws being enacted in state after state, then they should have to come to the floor and make that clear. if republicans oppose reinstating the voting rights act that passed in this chamber unanimously in in 2000, their constituents and the historical record shouldw know exactly whee they stand. instead, because of how today's filibuster works, we have two sets of rules and our country. one for democrats who want to promote civil rights, liberties, at another where republicans want to take them away. republicans want to close polling places, who want to limit voting, who want to pass gerrymandered maps are hard at
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work doing that right now withhi simple majorities in state legislatures all across this country. they face no filibusters to stop them. it's majority rule all the way, and here in washington when republicans want to pass massive tax cuts for billionaires and rig our tax code to favor big businesses, an exception to the filibuster was to do just that with a simple majority. republicans who want to pac the supreme court with extremist justices, who rolled back fundamental rights and to disregard the rule of law can do that with a simple majority right here in the united states senate. but the majority of democratic senators, again, democrats who together represent over 40 million more americans than the republican senators, a
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majority of democrats cannot pass legislation to improve the lives of americans. democrats want to raise the minimum wage. democrats want to lowerre the ct of prescription drugs and health care, and democrats want to protect the right to vote. but too often we cannot achieve these goals because the filibuster gives theor minority party and almost total veto over legislation. including the legislation we need to save our american democracy. we can't ignore republicans attempt to rig free and fair elections in this country. we can't roll over when republicans want to make it harder for black americans to vote. we can't look the other way when republicans want to make it tougher for latinas and asian americans to vote. we can't be silent when republicans make voting harder
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on tribal lands. we can't shrink back when republicans work to keep students from voting here we can't turn away when republicans try to keep working class people or anyone whoor might be more inclined to vote for democrats, keep them away from the pulse. that is not how democracy works. in a democracy the most votes when, period. in a democracy the senate debates and then the senate votes. and in a democracy the people, not the politicians, decide who will lead the nation. this week the eyes of the nation and the entire world are on the united states senate. we can choose to protect the tool of jim crow and segregation that is found nowhere in the constitution, or we can choose
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to defend the sacred right toct vote. i urge the senate to protect our democracy and to protect the right of every american citizen to vote and to have their vote counted. mr. president, some of our republican colleagues have made the dishonest claim that there is no voter suppression crisis, and there is no need for federal voting rights legislation. so i would like to enter into the record a series of articles atthat demonstrate that voter suppression taken place in state after state in this country. i'll start by reminding everyone that the supreme court led by chief justice john roberts opened the door to all of these anti-voter tactics by guiding
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preclearance from the voting rights act, and by turning its back -- getting -- equal justice under law. the first i will read excerpts of an article published in fox on july 21, 2021, entitled how america lost its commitment to the right to vote. the supreme court, justice helena kagan lamented in a dissenting opinion earlier this month quote, has treated no statute worse than the voting rights act. she's right. the voting rights act is arguably the most successful civil rights law in all of american history originally signed in 1965 it is the united states first seriousuc attempt t reconstruction to build a multiracial democracy, and it
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worked. just two years after president lyndon johnson signed the voting rights act into law, black voteo registration in the jim crow stronghold of mississippi skyrocketed from 6.7% to nearly 60% year and yet, in a trail of cases shelby county versus olde0 and 2013, abbott versus perez in 2018, and burn a versus the dnc in 2021, the court drained nearly all of the lights out of this landmark civil rights statute. after burn a decision that inspired justice kagan statement that the court has treated the voting rights act worse than any other federal law. it's unclear whether the supreme court would rule in favor of voting rights linkous even if the state legislature tried to
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out right rig an election. these cases are theti culminatin ofal more than half a century of efforts by conservatives who, after failing to convince elected lawmakers to weaken voting rights, turn to an unelected judiciary to enact a policy that would never have made it through congress. all of this is bad news for minority voters in america who are the most likely to be disadvantaged by many of the new restrictions currently being pushed in state houses across america. and for the countries relatively youngun commitment to multiracil democracy. and there are at least three reasons to fear the decisions like shelby county and burn a for shadow even more aggressive attacks on the right to vote.
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the first is that republican partisan can use race as a proxy to identify communities with large numbers of democratic voters. in 2020 according to the pew research center, 92% of non-hispanic black voters supported democrat joe biden over republican donald trump. and that's after trump slightly improved his performance among african-americans compared with 2016. that means that state lawmakers who wish to prevent democrats from voting can d do so through policies that make it harder for black voters and to a lesser extent most other nonwhite voters to cast a ballot. as republican lawmakers haven't been shy about doing so. as a federal appeals court wrote in 2016 about a north carolina carolina law that included many
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provisions making it harder to vote, quote, the new provisions targeted african-americans with almost surgical precision. and even starker example,, georgia recently enacted a law that effectively enables the state republican party to disqualify voters and shut down polling precincts. if the state gop wields this law to close down most of the polling places in the highly democratic majority black city of atlanta, it is unclear that it voting rights act that's been gravely wounded by three supreme court decisions remains vibrant enough to block them. the second reason to be concerned about decisions like brnovich is that the supreme court's attacks on the voting rights act are not isolated. they aref part of a greater web of decision making it much
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harder for voting rights plaintiffs to prevail in court. these cases include decisions like personal versus gonzales in 2006 which announced that judges should be very reluctant to block unlawful state voting rules close to an election. crawford v. marion county election board i in 2008 which permitted states to enact voting restrictions that largely problems. -- versus common cause in 2019 which for band federal courts from hearing partisan gerrymandering lawsuits because the course gop appointed majority deemed such cases quote, too difficult to adjudicate.
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finally, decisions like shelby county and brnovich are troubling because the courts briefing in those opinions appears completely divorced from the actual text of the constitution, and from the text of federal laws such as the voting rights act. shelby county eliminated r the voting rights act requirement that states with a history of racist election practices, quote, preclear any new voting rules with officials in washington, d.c. here it was rooted in what chief justice john roberts described as, quote, the principal that all states enjoy equal sovereignty, a principal that is never mentioned once in the text of the u.s. constitution. in brnovich, the court upheld two arizona laws that disenfranchised voters who vote in the wrong precinct and limit
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who can deliver an absentee ballot to a polling place. justice alito purports to take, quote, a fresh look at the statutory text in this case. but he imposes new limits on the voting rights act, such as a strong presumption that voting restrictions that were in place in 1982 were unlawful or a similar presumption favoring state laws purporting to prevent voter fraud. qualifications which have no basis whatsoever in the laws texts. as justice kagan writes in dissent, brnovich, quote, mostly inhabits a long free zone. that doesn't necessarily mean that the supreme court will allow any restriction on voting
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to stand. and at the most reading of cases like brnovich, the court might still intervene if georgia tries to close down most of the polling places and atlanta, but it does mean that voting rights lawyers and their clients can no longer expect to win their cases because congress passed a law protecting their right to vote. the rules in american elections are now what justice roberts and his five even more conservative colleagues say they are, not what the constitution or any act of congress has to say about voting rights. president, republicans are not just content with making it harder to vote. they are also passing state laws allowing them to replace local
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election officials with those who will administer elections in their favor. unsurprisingly, they are targeting areas with huge black populations, like atlanta, that help determine the outcome of the 2020s election cycle. and they are targeting smaller places, too. i as described in an article published in the "atlanta journal-constitution" on december 29, 2021, entitled new election board in lincoln county seeks central voting site. a a replacement elections boards planning to close all seven polling places in lincoln county, north of augustine, requiring in person voters to report to one centralized location. the poll closures would reduce voting access for rural residents who would have to
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drive 15 miles, or more, to cast a ballot in a county with no public transportation option. leading the opposition some voting rights advocates. the plan is f moving forward afr a state law passed this year abolished the previous county elections board and gave the majority of appointments to the republican county commission. now, lincoln is one of six counties where the republican-controlled georgia general assembly reorganized local election boards. quote, this is about the powerful flexing their muscles and saying, we can do whatever we want to do, and who's going to stop us? said reverend denise freeman news organizing lincoln voters to oppose the poll closures there she goes on to say, in lincoln county it's always been about power and control.
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the board is the same as before with one exception, a democratic party appointee was replaced by an appointee of the county commission whose five members are all republicans. the elections board could vote on the poll closure plan on january 19. quote, folks should have access to the polling locations. they should be able to vote without having to drive 30 minutes to get there, said cindy battles of the georgia coalition for the people's agenda, a civil rights group that has been collecting voter signatures for a petition to try to stop the closures. there is non public transportation available in lincoln county nor are their taxes, uber or left. anyone who wants to vote would have to drive or walk to a polling place, or return an absentee ballot.
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turnout decreases when voters have to travel farther to cast a ballot, according to statistical analysis by the "atlanta journal-constitution." polling places can be closed by a majority vote in lincoln county, and the federal government has no oversight role. at 2013 u.s. supreme court decision removed requirements of the voting rights act for states with a history of discrimination, including georgia, to obtain federal preclearance before making changes to voting practices and locations. and what happened? county election boards closed 214 precincts across georgia between 2012-2018. that is nearly 8% of the states totalta polling places, accordig to a count by the "atlanta journal-constitution."n.
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mr. president, republican efforts have already succeeded at disenfranchising voters, especially black voters. so i i now want to share the impact that limiting polling places had onn voters during the last presidential election in georgia using an excerpt from an npr article published on octobey do nonwhite georgia voters have to wait in line for hours? too few polling places. here's the story. kathy spotted the long line of voters as she pulled into the christian welcome center about 3:30 p.m. ready to cast her ballot in the june 9 primary election. hundreds of people were waiting in the heat and rain outside the lush tree line complex in union city, an atlanta suburb with
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22,400 residents, , nearly 80% e them black. she briefly considered a not casting a ballot at all, but she decided to stay. by the time she got inside it, more than five hours later, five hours later, the poles had officially closed and the electronic scanners were all shut down. poll workers told her she would have to cast a provisional ballot, but they promised that are vote would be counted. quote, i now anxious. i'm frustrated again and i now have an added emotion, which is anxiety, said kathy, a human services worker, recalling her emotions at the time. she asked that her full name not be used because she fears repercussions for speaking up. quote, , i'm wondering if my ballot is going to count. by the time the last voter got
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inside the welcome center to cast a ballot, it was the next day, june 10. the clogged polling locations in metro atlanta reflect an underlying pattern. the number of places to vote has shrunk statewide with little recourse, although the reduction polling places has taken place across racial lines, it is primarily caused long lines in nonwhite neighborhoods where voter registration has surged and more residents cast ballots in person onn election day. the pruning of polling g places started long before the pandemic, which has in turn discouraged people from voting in person. in georgia, which is considered a battleground state control of the white house and the u.s. senate, the difficulty of voting
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in black communities like union city could possibly to the results on november 3. with massive turnout expected, lines could be even longer than they were for the primary, despite a rise in mail-in voting, and georgians already turning out by the hundreds of thousands to cast ballots early. since the u.s. supreme courtr shelby v. holder decision in 2013 a laminated key federal oversight of election decisions in states with history of discrimination, george's voter rolls have grownav by nearly 2 million people. but polling locations have been cut statewide by nearly 10% this is according to an analysis of state and local records by georgia republic broadcasting andti propublica. much of the growth has been fueled by younger, nonwhite
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voters, especially in nine metro atlanta counties where four out of five new voters were nonwhite, according to the georgia secretary of state office. the metro atlanta area has been hit particularly hard. f the nine counties, fulton, lennox, forsyth, dekalb, henry, clayton have nearly half the states active voters but only 38% of the polling places, according to the analysis. as a result, the average number of voters packed into eachun polling location in those counties grew by nearly 40% from about 2600 in 2012 to more than 3600 per polling place as of october 9. in addition, a last-minute push which open more than 90 polling places just weeks before the november election has left many
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voters uncertain about where to vote or how long they might have to wait to cast a ballot. the growth and registered voters has outstripped the number of available polling places in both neighborhoods, but the lines to vote have been longer in black areas because black voters are more likely than whites to cast their p ballots in person on election day, and they are more reluctant to vote by mail, according to u.s. census data and recent studies. georgia public broadcasting propublica found that about two-thirds of the polling places that had to stay open late for the june primary to accommodate voters were in majority black districts, even though those neighborhoods made up only about one-third of the states polling places.
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an analysis by stanford university political science professor jonathan rhoton, data that was collected by the georgia public broadcasting propublica, found that the average wait time after 7 p.m. across georgia was 51 minutes in polling places that were 90% or more nonwhite. that's 51 minutes in polling places that were 90% or more nonwhite, but only six minutes in polling places that were 90% white. georgia law sets a path for 2000 voters for polling place that is experienced significant voter delays, but that limit is rarely if ever in force. our analysis found that in both majority black and majority white neighborhoods, about nine out of every ten precincts are assigned to polling places with more than 2000 people.
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a june 2020 analysis by the brennan center for justice at new york university law center found the average number of voters assigned to a polling place has grown in the past five years in georgia, louisiana, mississippi, and south carolina. all states with substantial black population that before the supreme court shelby decision needed to federal approval to close polling places under the voting rights act. and though dozens of states have regulations on the size of voting precincts and polling places or the number of voting machines, the analysis found that many jurisdictions simply do not abide by it. georgia's state leadership and election officials have largely ignored complaints about paul consolidations, even as they tout record growth in voter registration. as secretary of state for
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2010-2018 when most 2018 when most of georgia's pole closures occurred, brian camp, now the governor, took a lousy fair attitude toward county run election practices save documents that spelled out methods officials to shutter polling places to show, quote, how to change can benefit voters and the public interest. his office declined to comment thursday on the letter or white pole closures with unchallenged by state officials. his spokesperson referred to his previous statements that he did not encourage officials to close polling places but offered guidance on how to follow the law. the inaction has left black voters in georgia after facing their usefulness of jim crow laws, said aol political science professor at morehouse college in atlanta who studied the impact of the landmark shelby
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decision on black voters. voter suppression quote, is happening with these of voter impediments that are being imposed, jones said. in closing down polling places for people of the more difficult time getting there. you're making vote by mail difficult or confusing. now we are in court argue about which talents are going to be accepted, and it means that people have little trust in our state. mr. president, despite false republican complaints to the contrary, voter id laws disproportionately harm people of color, rural americans, and poor americans. i now want to read an article from the abc news, they published it on october 5, 2021. it tells a story of texas voter id laws, and it is entitled quote,t black woman in rural
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texas struggles with process to vote. advocates a system is unfair. while voters across texas motor voter registration applications on monday october 4 and other november 2 statewide election, 82-year-old myra hicks worried she would not be able to have her vote counted. the oakwood texas native said she has been able to renew her driver's license for more than a year because she she's beene to present the required birth certificate need to verify your identity. in the lone star state, election laws require voters to present a driver's license, passport, mr. pai delegation card, citizenship certificate, state election identification certificate or a personal identification card to cast a ballot in person. a person does not need an id to register to vote or to vote by mail in the state of texas.
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from voters ages seven and over, and otherwise valid form of id may be presented when casting a ballot, even if it's expired, according to the office of the secretary of state. if a a voter does not possessr cannot reasonably obtain one of the seven acceptable forms of photo id, the voter may file a reasonable impediment declaration and present a supporting form of id, like a bank statement, current utility bill, a paycheck or a government check. hicks and her daughter said they were unaware of the our id process, and that without a driver's license and limited transportation, it's difficult for hicks to participate in state and federal elections, quote, my vote does not count, hicks told abc news. quote, it's very important. people have died just to vote, people have stood in line, in the rain, women fought to vote and now i can't vote.
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like many black elders in the south, hicks was born at a time when records are kept. she never had a birth certificate. her daughter has helped her apply for one. the pair even went to court over the issue and said a judge ruled in their favor. still, they said the office of vital statistics rejected hicks because she filled out an outdated form. i do t feel like the laws right now are targeting my mother and other african-americans in this country, white said. eight state constitutional amendments ranging from taxes to judicial eligibility will be up for a vote on november 2 in an election that as of now hicks cannot participate in. advocates one that potentially thousands of predominantly minority voters could be disenfranchised due to voter identification requirements,
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which could have large implications during next years midterm elections for state and congressional races. quote, it's often very common for people of a certain age not to run deeper certificate. i want to emphasize its not as uncommon as people might believe, said friend needed tolleson, a feisty for faculty and academic affairs and a professor of law at the university of southern california school of law. quote, in this country, race correlates to a lot of different characteristics. so, for example, if you take voter identification laws, people of color, so african-americans, t latinos, wl be less likely to have the underlying documents that you need in order t to get the id in the first place in order to get a driver's license, tolleson said. recently passed the election integrity protection act, one of the most restrictive voting laws
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in the country. it bans drive-through voting,, enlist new regulations for early voting and it and ask new id requirements for mail-in voting. while tolleson does not believe that all voter identification requirement are discriminatory, she called texas voter id measures racist during a congressional subcommittee hearing on september 22 because she believes a disproportionately impact voters of color. quote, texas has a very restrictive voter id law, tolleson said. if you i read it, it doesn't sem racist on itsin face but if you think about how it operates in practice, as a well as the intet behind it, it is fairly racist. one example texas law only allows voters to a certain limited amount of ids. you have to have a driver's license, you can have a hand
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handgun license, you can have a military id, but you can have a federal id, you can have a student id which arepl types of ids the people of color are more likely to have. white said obtaining an election identification is not so easy for an 82-year-old woman who lives any rural area without the convenient ability to drive herself to the department of public safety. quote, my challenge is it's taking so long to get this done, white said. and sin my mother through all these hoops at this age to go get documents notarized, to go get her social sturdy application. we are having to look for high school records and baptism information to center through such a process, it really is ridiculous. mr. president, latino communities have also been at the forefront of the fight for social, racial and economic
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justice, but republican gerrymandering is silencing these communities, as described in the following article published by the brennan center on november 142021 entitled, it's time to stop gerrymandering latinos out of political power. in 2020, latinos made up just 1% of all local and federal officials despite being 18% of the population. in the twin 20 census results show that latinos made up over half the country's population growth from 2010-2020, adding 11.6 million people to their total numbers, more by far than any other ethnic group in absolute terms. latinos are already the largest minority group in 21 states, and in california and new mexico they have already surpassed
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non-latino whites as in the largest single ethnic group in the state. in texas they are poised to do the same. in states where growth among latinos and other people of color threatens the political status quo, lawmakers already beginning to gerrymander latino communities out of their political voice, packing them into fewer and fewer districts to circumscribe their electoral power, or dispersing latino communities across multiple districts in ordermu to dilute their voting strength. in texas, for example, lawmakers recently passed a new congressional map the reduced the number of latino majority districts, despite the fact that the state has actually added 2 million latinos since 2010. now, this is in a new tactic. last decade texas failed to
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create any new electoral opportunities for latinos, despite rapid and concentrated latino growth, leading the use of drawnout litigation. likewise, successful litigation in florida demonstrated that lawmakers packed latino voters into already heavily democratic districts to shore up republican districts at the expense of latino voters. even in states under democratic control, like illinois and washington, latinos are often shuffled between different districts to bolster safe democratic seats and denied the equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice. even with record turnout in 2020, latino voters were by many accounts neglected by republican and democratic campaigns alike. this comes at a time when latino
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communities are in particular need of responsiveness from lawmakers. over the course of the pandemic, latinos have been 2.8 times more likely to die of covid-19, and they suffered more economic and job losses than other americans. and since the pandemic began, latino adults were more likely toto get afflicted and their children were more likely to fall behind in school than their white peers. but rather than address the concerns and desires of this growing body of constituents, many states like texas and florida have instead created nee barriers to the ballot box. anti-latino redistricting practices are occurring amid the biggest voter suppression push in decades. much ofst it aimed at diminishig the growing power of latino communities. these attacks on latino voters have deep roots and historical tragedies and violence, going
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back over a century. often he raced in u.s. history books, violent mobs are estimated to have killed thousands of people of mexican dissent in the early 20th century. forgotten, to come is a campaign by state and local officials to repatriate them that is, to forcibly move people to mexico and estimated 2 million mexican-americans were moved during the great depression, many of whom were u.s. citizens. later, even the voting rights, voting rights act of 1965 failed to initially protect puerto ricans from english literacy tests at the new york pulse. quote, language minorities, close quote one include in the law until ten years after its passage. so as latino population has over the past 50 years, the
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pattern of discrimination remains strikingly unchanged. every day lawmakers across the country are recycling the bad map drawing practices that are stymied latino political opportunity for decades. voters and advocates can challenge these maps in court if it will be hampered by courts restrictive interpretation of voting rights laws andri the ability for map drawers after the supreme court greenlighted partisan gerrymandering, to claim that latinos were targeted for partisan reasons, not for their ethnicity. and that is why it is more urgent than ever that congress repair and strengthen theot nation's voting rights laws by passing the john lewis voting rights advancement act and the freedom to vote act. now, mr. president, asian american voters are turning out at record levels, and it's no coincidence that republican
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state legislatures are responding with new laws to suppress their voices. i will now read an nbc news article from march 31, 2021, about the effect of georgia's recently enacted voter suppression law on asian american voters. this is entitled asian american voter rates in georgia hit record high. how voting bill threatens progress. .. last election, a new law that restricts voting in the state threatens their participation in the political process, particularly at a time they also have the highest rates of absentee voting, critics say. the new legislation, passed with >> the new legislation passed h with the overwhelming support of republicans in the state legislature last week adds restrictions to absentee and early voting among other forms of balloting.
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critics say the law could disproportionately affect districts of color including asian americans whose voting population already confronts specific barriers to civic engagement. the bill is particularly alarming in light of a recent analysis of turnout in battle ground states that shows a historic 84% vote gain in voting by asian-americans from 2016 to 2020 in part by outreach. voters including asian-american voters, asian americans advancing justice atlanta told nbc-- told nbc. and now, some elected leaders
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want to try to suppress those voices rather than be accountable to a diverse, multi-racial, multi-ethnic electorate. critics said that the bill, which was fast tracked through the state house and senate and signed by brian kemp within an hour. it disallows line warming. food and water. and taking power from the board of elections. in regards to absentee and early voting, the earliest the voter can request a ballot 11 weeks less than half the time. and the deadline for the ballots moved up as well, requesting and returning ballots requires identification such as driver's license, state i.d. number or copy of an
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acceptable voter i.d. the restrictions on absentee voting, wynn said, are particularly concerning given that asian-americans vote by mail at the highest rail compared to all other racial groups in the general election. voting data from november showed that in 13 of the most contested battleground states, including georgia, aapi early and absentee voting rose almost 300% from 2016 to 2020. and further pointed out that any laws that make up voting-- make vet voting more challenging, on those limited english proficient or have difficulty communicating in english. the asian-american population has some of the highest rates of limited english proficiency
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and accord to go pew research, asian-americans made up of naturalized immigrants who account for two-thirds of the electorate. with a high immigrant population, asian-americans face barriers beyond just language. an associate dean for the university of california riverside school of public policy and founder of aapi data said because the majority of the electorate is foreign-born, most asian-americans, most likely did not grow up in a democratic or a republican household, he said. for those able to get college degrees they probably attended universities in their home country, which influenced their knowledge of the political process. quote, what that means is that the political awakening and consciousness and information where the party stands on the issues and where candidates stand on issues, the barriers
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are pretty high beyond the language barriers, he said. quote, you combine that with the fact that parties and candidates traditionally have not reached out to them. it's asking a lot for someone to make a decision when they don't have all of that background information and no one is reaching out to them. given the added work that's required by immigrants to seek out this information, noted that quote, they are more likely to give up or feel intimidated in the face of additional hurtles or hoops. within the asian-american community those who tend to vote at higher rates also tepid to be more proficient in english and have higher incomes and higher education. many are also home owners as opposed to renters. voter suppression laws would result in a distorted representation of the asian-american population. quote, all of these factors
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matter. they disproportionately hurt populations that are lower income, lower education, renters, younger people. you've got to skew in terms of communities of color less likely to be represented, even within those communities. you look at a class skew and an age skew in terms of who has a voice. ultimately, people should be pushing for more ways to make voting easier and to pull more people toward civic engagement, adding even if lawmakers are genuinely concerned about voter fraud, it occurs far more infrequently. >> and previous research shows there's little to no voter fraud in a harvard study on double voting, one of the most frequently cited instances of
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fraud, that it's not the integrity of the american election. this is serious -- that it prevents-- and this is how important it is for our most vulnerable community. mr. president, for far too long, native communities have faced massive challenges in exercising their right to vote. voter suppression in everton, montana by illustrated by this mike article by july 26th, 1991, one of the recent efforts to tis enfranchise, and ground zero for native americans. and banned discriminatory voting practice and gave the native american communities the right to vote in theory.
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most of us know now that even with the voter rights act in place, voter suppression is still going strong. in montana, native americans are fighting new republican laws that further restrict their ability to vote. this year, montana democratic governor who served for eight years was replaced by republican greg giafforte. and they took advantage of the governor's election passing two new voting laws bill. house bill that eliminated same day registration and 530, ill lee for people to distribute or collect mail-in ballots if they're paid to do so. per of national congress of the native americans, up to 10 percentage points lower than any other racial group. in 2019, the brennan center
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restricted voting laws throughout the country continued to disproportionally impact native american communities. on the surface prevented people from paying people to collect ballots might seem look a good idea. but western native montana voice, pay people to collect and distribute ballots is an important part of their voting strategy. without this practice many people would be unable to cast their ballots at all. for example, the new york times reported the story of laura a resident of the indian reservation who had emergency open heart surgery only a week before the 2020 election. because of the risk that coronavirus posed she nor her husband could vote in person. home delivery wasn't an option either because it doesn't exist in her area of the reservation. instead, the times reported the couple relied on renee la plat, a community organizers with western native voice who took
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applications and ballots back and forth between their home and one of the only two satellite election offices located on the 2300 square mile reservation. the new laws signed would make this practice illegal. native american communities in montana are organizing against these voter suppression efforts. in may, the a.c.l.u. of montana and native american rights funds sued on behalf of several native voting rights organizations and four montana tribal communities, stating the new laws will disenfranchise native voters in the state. mr. president, i know i'm running low on time. i will not be able to speak to the question of the student vote and how republican legislatures are doing all they can to keep young voters from voting because they are more likely to vote democratic or on
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felon disenfranchisement and what that means in our democracy. i am not able to speak on these, but that does not mean that i do not think they're important, it just reminds us of the magnitude of this problem. voter suppression laws have devastating consequences for real americans every day. so i want to conclude my story today, my remarks today, with the story of crystal mason, which is told in the new york times on april 6th, 2021, in an article entitled, crystal mason was sentenced to five years behind bars because she voted. whenever you hear republican rants about widespread voter fraud supposedly undermining american's faith in the elections. remember the story of crystal mason. ms. mason, a 46-year-old
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grandmother from fort worth area has been in the news off and on since 2016 when texas prosecutors decided she was a vote fraudster, so dangerous, that justice demanded she be sentenced to five years behind bars. her offense? visiting her local precinct on election day that year and casting a provisional ballot for president. ms. mason was not eligible to vote at the time because she was on supervised release after serving a prison term for federal tax fraud. texas, like many states, bars those with criminal records from voting until they have finished all terms of their sentence. ms. mason, who had only recently returned home to her three children and had gone to the polls that day at the urging of her mother, said she did not realize she wasn't allowed to cast a ballot. when poll workers couldn't find her name on the rolls assumed it was a clerical error and
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suggested she fill out the provisional battle. and provisional ballots, eligibility that can't be resolved at the polling place, since 2002, they're part of help america vote after, a lost passed after the 2000 election debacle when millions of ballots were disqualified. ms. mason, the system determined she was ineligible. in other words, the system worked the way it was intended to. prosecutors went after her for illegal voting anyway and she should have known she was not allowed to vote. and the state sent her a letter in 2012 shortly after she had been sentenced in the tax fraud case. the letter was delivered to her home even though she had already begun serving her sentence behind bars. quotes, they sent it to the one place they knew she was not going to be, said allison--
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mrs. mason's lawyer. the prosecutors also pointed out when she cast her ballot in 2016 she signed an affidavit saying that she had completed all the terms of her sentence. ms. mason said she hadn't read the fine print. she was focused on writing down her address in the exact form it appeared on her driver's license. she was convicted ach a one day trial and sentenced to five years behind bars for casting a ballot that was never counted. it's a surreal experience to be in a courtroom for these trials, said christopher oogen, a professor in university of minnesota who has studied fellen disenfranchisement and in trials of illegal voter. you've got somebody, a model probationer, whether she voted
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and i had this over riding sense, gosh, don't we have other crimes to prosecute? it should be a concensus issue in a democracy that we don't incarcerate people for voting. there's a stronger case for criminal punishment for offenses like campaign finance violations or sabotaging voting conditions that can do more widespread damage to our election system, but in his own work, he has found that the people who get punished are more likely to fit ms. mason's description. female, mow level-- low level defender and not typically folks who represent some great threat to public safety. you wouldn't get that sense from how ms. mason has been treated. after her voting conviction, a federal judge found she had violated the terms of the supervised release and
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sentenced her to 10 extra months behind bars. and that punishment earned her no credit toward her five-year state sentence. ms. mason continued to fight her case and so far she is lost at every step. in march 2020, a three-judge panel in the state appellate court rejected the challenge to her sentence and the court reasoned that she broke the law while on supervised release. and in that circumstance or not. this appears to be a clear misapplication of texas election law, which criminalizes voting only by people who actually know they are not eligible. not those who, like ms. mason, mistakenly believe that they are. it's as though ms. mason had asked the police officer what the local speed limit was and he responded, beats me, why don't you start driving and see if we pull you over. last week, the texas court of
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criminal appeals, the state's highest court for criminal cases agreed to rule on miss mason's appeal the last chance to avoid prison for voting. tossing her conviction would bring a small measure of justice to a woman who at least wouldn't have been able to cast a ballot, but wouldn't get rid of the fear she's endured for mow reason. her first grandchild was born, and how much she would miss if she were to lose the appeal and end up behind bars. waking up every day knowing that prison is on the line trying to maintain a smile on your face in front of your kids and you don't know the outcome. your future is in someone else's hands because of an error. it's the whole point of offering provisional ballots. the crazy quilt of voting
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regulations that americans face from state to state can trip up even the best informed voters. and honest mistakes are common. by prosecuting ms. mason just one of more than 44,000 texans whose provisional ballots in 2016 was found to be ineligible, the state is saying, that you attempt to participate in democracy at your own risk. that risk is almost always higher for people of color. texas attorney general ken paxson likes to brag about the 155 people his office successfully prosecuted for election law in the last 16 years, average fewer than 10 per year. what he doesn't say out loud a.c.l.u. found analysis of cases he prosecuted almost three quarters involved black or latino defendants and nearly half are women of color like ms. mason. and at this point you wonder if
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she wasn't eligible to vote in the first place, she had been released from prison and trying to work her way back into society. as more states are coming to understand, there is no good argument for denying the vote to people with a criminal record and that before you consider the practices explicit racist roots, there is even a strong case to be made for letting those in prison vote as in maine, vermont, and most western european countries. and yet today, more than 5 million americans, including ms. mason, unable to vote because of the criminal conviction. that has a far greater impact on state and national elections than any voter fraud that has ever been uncovered. given the disproportionate number of black and brown people caught up in the criminal justice system it's not hard to see a connection between cases like ms. mason's and the broader republican war on voting which so often targets people who look like
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her. the nation's tolerance of prosecution for the act of casting a ballot reveals a complacency about the right to vote, and troubling degree of comfort with voting restrictions generally. excuse me. there's a slippery slope. if you're starting sending individuals from the franchise, it's easy to except other individuals, excuse me, by defining them outside the citizenry, he said. what is shocking to me is that people view this as acceptable in a political system that calls itself a democracy. mr. president, these efforts to subvert our democracy cannot be allowed to stand. congress must pass the freedom to vote act.
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the john r lewis act immediately to protect free and fair elections across this nation. and senate republicans will not join us, then we must reform the filibuster. we must pass this vital legislation. our democracy depends on it. and now, mr. president, i yield the floor. >> before the democratic caucus meeting senator joe manchin briefly stopped to speak with the press on the filibuster and voting rights. >> [inaudible conversations] >> we've got a-- want to stand here. >> the democrats are talking about you being the nuclear option for the filibuster. are you open to that idea. >>al


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