This is the third voting bill Republicans have rejected this year. Democrats first tried advancing a sprawling bill containing a wish list of reforms on everything from voting procedures to campaign finance to judicial ethics. That one was a stretch even for some Democrats, such as moderate Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.).
Next was a drastically scaled-back bill that Mr. Manchin drafted with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). It would have required states to meet some minimum standards in federal elections, such as providing a certain amount of early voting and permitting universal access to absentee ballots. It also would have restricted “gerrymandering” of legislative district maps, just as the nation is witnessing both parties conduct a new round of aggressive partisan map manipulation, from Ohio to North Carolina to New York to Illinois.
There was no good reason to oppose such modest steps. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Democrats of trying “to start tearing up the ground rules of our democracy and writing new ones, of course on a purely partisan basis.” This, of course, is precisely what Republicans have been doing in state after state following the 2020 election and former president Donald Trump’s unending accusations of fraud.
Finally, last week, Democrats brought up the John Lewis bill. Mr. McConnell railed that, in seeking to restore decades-old voting protections, Democrats sought a “federal takeover” of elections and to “overturn the courts,” even though the Supreme Court said explicitly that Congress was free to update and reimpose the 1965 Voting Rights Act’s rules.
Senate Republicans’ real object seems to be enabling state-level Republicans to continue making it harder to vote, in an effort to tilt the playing field their way.
The irony is that their latest blockade came a day after Republicans swept to victory in Virginia, a state in which Democrats had lifted many unnecessary barriers to voting. Republicans won not because they successfully discouraged voting but because they maximized turnout. Republicans do not need to curb Americans’ ability to vote in order to win. They simply need to advance more appealing candidates running on more popular platforms.
Every American — Democrat or Republican — should favor reforms that promote voter participation and honest competition between the parties. Senate Republicans have proved time and again that is not what they want, even as voting rights come under attack in many states. At this point, Democrats must consider reforming the filibuster to allow the Senate to debate and vote on measures to protect the franchise.