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Voting rights bill sputters in Congress

Efforts to reform voting at the federal level took a pair of falls this week after the U.S. Senate failed to pass the bill itself and to approve a filibuster that would have opened the door for the measure to be enacted with a simple majority. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act aimed to make Election Day a federal holiday, set minimum national standards for absentee voting, approve the use of drop boxes, and restore rights for felons after they were released from prison. Senate Republicans called it a partisan power grab while Jay Heck from the voter advocacy group Common Cause Wisconsin says it would have made it easier for all Americans to cast a ballot.

Senate Democrats attempted to change the filibuster rules to allow the package to be passed by a simple majority of 51-48, opposed to the current 60/40 supermajority. Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema dealt the fatal votes. Heck believes it is a matter of time before legislation in the Senate will be decided by a simple majority.

Wisconsin’s two senators were split on the vote along their party lines. Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin said they could no longer allow Republicans to federalize voter suppression. Republican Senator Ron Johnson called out earlier attempts by Democrats to preserve the filibuster as he voted to “prevent a naked power grab” amid poor poll numbers.

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