By Ally Margolis
Ally Margolis is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying Political Science and History.
On Wednesday, Mississippi Senator Hyde-Smith raised some eyebrows during a Senate Rules and Administration Committee meeting on the proposed For the People Act, a Democrat-sponsored voting rights bill. When Majority Leader Schumer criticized proposed legislation in the Georgia legislature that would ban voting on Sundays, Hyde-Smith responded with a quote from Exodus: “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” . Hyde-Smith’s reasoning to ban voting on Sundays, an action that would severely limit the political activity of Black churches, fell flat with many, especially since Exodus is a book in the Old Testament, and the Jewish sabbath is not on Sunday. Hyde-Smith’s inaccuracies compliment her blatant disregard for the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” While Georgia’s state legislature has stepped away from that specific proposal, “Republicans have introduced more than 250 bills to restrict voting in 43 states” .
Republicans have maintained the claim that the election system in the United States is corrupt, an allegation that has not been corroborated by facts, but has gained some notoriety. While 65% of voters believe the 2020 election was “free and fair,” only 35% of Republican voters feel the same . Some Republican legislators have been more blatantly clear in their reasoning for limiting voting rights going forward, acknowledging that making it easier for all people to vote could lead to more Democratic wins and more Republican losses . However, Democrats are not standing idly by. The For the People Act, which the committee was discussing on Wednesday, would “mandate automatic voter registration nationwide, expand early and mail-in voting, end gerrymandering… and curb the influence of money in politics” . While Republicans and Democrats may have objections to specifics of the bill, Senator Klobuchar says more voting protections are necessary because of the actions of Republican state governments, the “chaos” around having “six-hour lines” to vote in Arizona, and “purging names of longtime voters in Georgia . Unfortunately, the For the People Act is unlikely to pass, especially with the current filibuster in place, but legislatures are not the only branch of governments with voting rights on their mind.
The United States Supreme Court is set to decide Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, which asks whether the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would be violated by “state voting requirements that disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color” . Two Arizona voting laws are in question. Arizona, a battleground state which flipped for Biden in 2020, requires voting in the wrong location to be automatically disqualified and “criminalizes third-party ballot collection” . Both of these regulations have a disparate impact on voters of color. However, if the Supreme Court comes down on the side of the Arizona legislature, yet another element of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will be gutted, bringing back the need for Congress to pass new legislation to protect the right to vote.
President Biden has stressed the need for a new voting rights act, but whether or not he will push to rid the Senate of the filibuster in order to do so is a question that remains unanswered. Biden ally Majority Whip James Clyburn has suggested that, like the budget, voting rights should be filibuster-proof. Perhaps this is a compromise that could be made. Either way, voting rights continues to be an issue at the forefront of members of both parties, at all levels and branches of government.
 Carter, Josh. “Hyde-Smith: Mississippians don’t vote on Sundays because that’s the Sabbath.” (24 March 2021). WLBT News. https://www.wlbt.com/2021/03/24/hyde-smith-mississippians-dont-vote-sundays-because-thats-sabbath/.
 Fandos, Nicholas. “Democrats Begin Push for Biggest Expansion of Voting Since 1960s.” (24 March 2021) The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/24/us/politics/democrats-voting-rights.html.
 Gans, David H. “SCOTUS Will Consider Another Way to Gut the Voting Rights Act.” (2 March 2021) Slate. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/03/scotus-brnovich-voting-rights-act-preview.html.
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