Voting Rights Act Didn’t Fit The Bill

Senate Blocks Voting Rights Bill With Filibuster

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On March 11, 2021, there was a new bill introduced to the Senate that was mainly focused on expanding voting rights and reducing corruption in the democratic process, but it has now been stalled for the foreseeable future.

“I think it’s misleading,” Delaney Williamson (10) said. “The Senate should be actively correcting past wrongs such as the inequality of voting in some places. Them not passing the bill should send a message to citizens about their rights and who really controls their freedom.”

The “For the People Act” was brought to the Senate again after making it past the House of Representatives for the second time. The “For the People Act” was intended to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders.

“I think that’s a pretty good bill and I think that they should have passed it and I don’t see why the Senate wouldn’t,” Kevon Manning-Mitchell (10) said.

It was first introduced in 2019 and after not even getting through the Senate doors, it was reintroduced in 2021, but as of January 19th, it is being blocked by a filibuster indefinitely. A filibuster is a prolonged debate to stop the bill from going through even though it has enough support to be passed. Since then, Democratic senators have been trying to make changes to the filibuster rules to no avail.

“None of them making it through the Senate is kind of disappointing but not that surprising at all,” Natalya Shelton (10) said.

This is not the first voting reform bill that the Biden administration has tried to push through the Senate. The “Freedom to Vote Act” was introduced in September 2021, and had the same goals of expanding voters’ rights but was also trying to establish Election Day as a federal holiday. The bill was blocked in November 2021.

“It’s one thing to propose the idea, and another to have it accepted and to actively work towards it,” Williamson said.“If President Biden wants to make a change in the voting abilities of citizens then he has to actively fight for it.”

There have even been attempts to reform how electoral college votes are counted. Representatives from both sides of the aisle are trying to add reforms to the Federal Count Act which is an act that dictates that the Vice President reads out the number of electoral votes from each state which Congress then counts before deciding a winner.

“I think it’s not good because if it isn’t broken then why should they attempt to fix it,” Shelton said.

The reason that voting reform is receiving so much attention is that one of the most consistent changes that are being proposed when it comes to voting is the voting rights of felons. A felon is anyone who has been charged with a felony and found guilty. These crimes include murder, theft, drug possession, hate crimes, etc. In 11 states, felons cannot vote even after serving their full sentence and have to wait an extended period of time before being allowed to vote again.

“I think it’s not very fair but depending on the crime committed and your mental state should be used to decide whether or not you should vote,” Manning-Mitchell said.

In 16 states, felons can vote but only after serving their sentence, Texas being one of those states. In three states felons never have to lose that right at all and in the rest of the United States, they only have to lose it while incarcerated. So far, even after attempts on a federal and state level, there have been no significant voting law changes for either side of the aisle.

“Honestly, I never really thought about it before because it has never really affected my daily life before,” Shelton said.