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FOR THE WEEK OF JAN. 17, 2022

Voting rights bills approach showdown in U.S. Senate

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Quote anyone from your city or state on this topic.
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Share something President Biden does or says this week on any subject.
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Read about another issue in Washington, D.C., and give your view.

The U.S. Senate is heading toward a showdown on voting rights legislation backed by President Joe Biden and most Democratic senators – though supporters lack the votes needed for passage. "I don't know that we can get it done," Biden said last Thursday. "But I know one thing: As long as I have a breath in me, as long as I'm in the White House, as long as I'm engaged at all, I'm going to be fighting to change the way these legislatures have been moving" by passing new voting rules. He and allies want to counteracts efforts in some states to reduce polling places, limit absentee ballot drop boxes, challenge voters' eligibility or take other steps seen as election participation barriers.

Republican-led state legislatures across the country have enacted laws since the 2020 presidential election that make it harder to cast a ballot. Republicans say these "voter integrity" policies are intended to restore faith in the process after President Trump falsely claimed widespread voter fraud. Democrats describe the actions as voter suppression, saying that many new laws disproportionately affect people who tend to back Democrats -- such as young voters, people of color and people with disabilities.

"I wouldn't want to delude anybody into thinking this is easy," says Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., "but we're trying to come to a place where 50 senators can support two bills -- the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Act." He adds that Democrats will either need support from 10 Republicans to end debate and pass the legislation, or to change the rules allowing what's called a filibuster (pronounced PHIL-ah-buster that blocks votes by allowing prolonged debate. In an Atlanta speech last week, Biden said Republican opposition to the bills is like opposition to civil rights bills in the past.

The Freedom to Vote Act, which the House passed last Thursday on a 220-203 party-line vote, would allow automatic registration, same-day registration, and expansion of early voting and absentee voting. It also would make Election Day a federal holiday. The other proposal, named for a civil rights figure and longtime Georgia congressman who died in 2020, would create new criteria for determining which states need advance federal permission to pass laws that would affect voting rights. The measure also has protections for election workers, polling places and ballot counting. "Nothing less is at stake than our democracy," says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

President says: "It's about election subversion, not just whether or not people get to vote. Who counts the vote? That's what this is about." – Jan. 13

Republican says: "This is not about voting rights. This is about power and control." – Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois

Columnist says: "If voting protections fail, many in the Black community will feel like they have been stabbed in the back." – Charles Blow, The New York Times

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2022

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