The bill seeks to create a streamlined automatic voter registration process, restore voting rights of the formerly incarcerated, would lengthen early voting and update technology used in the voting process. The For The People Act was created to help restore the Voting Rights Act, combat voter purging and reform redistricting.
Other important aspects of the bill would oversee political lobbying and and ethics by preventing members of Congress from serving on corporate boards and requiring presidents to release their tax returns.
It passed in a 220-210 vote, with one Democrat voting with Republicans against it. However, the bill’s future in the Senate proves to be another challenge as the threat of a GOP-led filibuster could again impede progress for Black communities targeted with repeated attacks against their voting rights.
An almost identical measure was first introduced by Democratic Rep. John Sarbane and passed the House in 2019, but again stalled in the Senate.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, chairwoman of the Rules Committee, plans to bring the vote before the committee this month in order to advance the Senate’s version of the bill to the floor for a vote.
The filibuster has routinely blocked the road to justice in America’s history. During the Jim Crow era Senators largely used the filibuster to block votes on voting rights measures. An end to the filibuster is viewed by many as restorative justice.
The conversation centers around whether Democrats will stage an offensive to eliminate the filibuster, which requires 60 votes for passage. While Democrats make up exactly half of the Senate, they would need over 10 Republicans to vote alongside in order to eliminate the filibuster.
Within the Democratic party hesitancy remains around moving forward. And while President Joe Biden fiercely defended the filibuster in the past, his current silence hints that he will remain neutral, at least publicly.
Dems could end the filibuster by enacting a simple majority vote where Vice President Kamala Harris would serve as tie breaker, or eliminate the filibuster for election-related legislation. The more aggressive options would require GOP members to stand on the Senate floor and occupy the full 20 hours required during a filibuster, after which a vote is taken up. Or they could lower the threshold for passing filibustered bills from 60 votes to 55 votes.
Time is of the essence as voter suppression laws surge in legislative bodies around the country.
In the past year 250 new laws were introduced aimed at restricting voting in 43 states, according to Mother Jones. During the 2020 election season, voter suppression methods have routinely targeted Black and underserved communities, where members are still fighting for a fair and equitable access to vote.