Bill would restore voting rights to felons, require states to provide mail-in voting
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) on Monday threatened to scrap the upper chamber’s filibuster to pass Democrats’ controversial election reform bill.
Schumer said the Senate will “debate and consider changes” to Senate procedures by Jan. 17 to overcome the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold, saying Republicans have exploited the rule to “embarrass the will of majority” and block Democrats’ so-called voting rights legislation.
“In June, August, October, and once more in November, Republicans weaponized arcane Senate rules to prevent even a simple debate on how to protect our democracy,” Schumer wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter. “We must adapt. The Senate must evolve, like it has many times before.”
Schumer’s letter comes as the Freedom to Vote Act languishes in the Senate amid staunch Republican opposition. Without a change to Senate rules, Democrats would need 10 Republicans to back their legislation—a number they have thus far failed to reach.
Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema’s (D., Ariz.) opposition to eliminating the filibuster has stymied previous efforts to alter Senate voting procedures. A group of Democratic senators, however, have in recent weeks tried to persuade the two lawmakers to back reforms that would weaken the vote threshold, according to Politico.
The Democrats’ election reform bill would restore voting rights to convicted felons, require states to offer mail-in voting, and mandate two weeks of early voting, among other measures. Republicans have long opposed the legislation, calling it a partisan power grab.
“This is clearly an effort by one party to rewrite the rules of the political system,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said in March 2021.