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Federalising Elections? Dems Signalled Readiness to Change Senate's Rules to Pass Voting Rights Bill

© AP Photo / Samuel CorumSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 16, 2021.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 16, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.01.2022
Democrats are racing against the clock to pass the Freedom to Vote Act in the upper chamber ahead of the 2022 mid-terms. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has proposed a new option to proceed with the party's landmark bill.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated on Monday that the US Senate will vote on changing the upper chamber's rules on or before 17 January, if the GOP continues to obstruct voting rights legislation.

"The Senate must evolve, like it has many times before," Schumer wrote in a letter sent on 3 January. "The Senate was designed to evolve and has evolved many times in our history … The fight for the ballot is as old as the Republic."

The Democrat Party has repeatedly tried to pass various versions of the Bill in the upper chamber since the Dems gained the majority of the House in 2019. However, the For the People Act, introduced as HR1, was blocked every time by Republican senators.
The Bill is now called the Freedom to Vote Act. It incorporates most of the key provisions of the For the People Act, including nation-wide vote by mail; automatic voter registration; same day voter registration requiring the state to register a person to vote immediately upon request, even on election day; barring of partisan gerrymandering; and overhauling campaign finance system, among other measures.
An official ballot drop box is seen Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Santa Clarita, Calif. - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.03.2021
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The federal voting rights Bill is also seen as a countermeasure against a set of "ID laws" proposed by Republican legislatures in a number of states. The GOP-backed laws are seeking to ban ballot harvesting, strengthen identification rules, prevent election authorities from sending unsolicited vote-by-mail applications to registered voters and provide poll watchers with greater freedoms, to name but a few provisions.
The Republicans argue that the HR1 voting rights legislation is aimed at "federalising" elections, depriving state legislatures of their control over election rules and inviting fraud through enhanced use of voting by mail. Furthermore, GOP leaders claim that the Bill is designed to "keep Democrats permanently in power."
As the Wall Street Journal's editorial summarised on 14 January 2021, the legislation will help "auto-enroll likely Democrat voters, enhance Democrat turnout, with no concern for ballot integrity."
Supporters of President Donald Trump rally at Freedom Plaza on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Washington. - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.05.2021
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The Freedom to Vote Act is currently supported by all 50 Democrats in the upper chamber including moderate Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, famous for torpedoing the US president's signature Build Back Better Act late last year. However, Republican senators are expected to resort to the legislative filibuster, a political procedure that allows derailing a Bill unless it is backed by 60 senators.
Top Democrats, including Chuck Schumer, have long been seeking to ban the filibuster. However, Manchin previously made it clear that he would never support eradicating the procedure altogether. Therefore, Senate Democrats will move to reform Senate rules, which could make it easier to pass their voting rights Bill.
U.S. President Joe Biden makes remarks from the White House after his coronavirus pandemic relief legislation passed in the Senate, in Washington, U.S. March 6, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.12.2021
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In early December 2021 Axios reported an effort by a small group of Senate Democrats to convince Manchin to support their plans to change the upper chamber's rules. Citing multiple lawmakers and their aides, the media outlet noted that although refusing to nix the filibuster the West Virginia Democrat allegedly showed openness to changing Senate rules.
The group includes Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Speaking to Axios on 9 December, Kaine stated that the group is looking at "a whole package of reforms to make the Senate work better that we think could facilitate passage of voting rights, but would not abolish the filibuster."
Politico specified on 8 December that one of the options discussed by the Dems and Manchin himself is to include a "standing filibuster" which would require senators to continue debating on the floor rather than needing 60 votes to end debate on a Bill.
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