— Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), in a floor speech, June 17
Schumer didn’t mince words, calling a raft of new voting restrictions adopted this year by Republican-led states “despicable,” “antidemocratic” and “what they do in dictatorships.”
Republican-controlled state legislatures and GOP governors across the country are enacting laws that tighten access to the ballot. State lawmakers in many cases are justifying these measures by repeating former president Donald Trump’s debunked claims of a fraudulent 2020 election.
We just fact-checked three of the Republican governors — in Arizona, Florida and Georgia — who signed restrictive voting laws, finding that some of their comments about those laws are misleading.
Here, what got us fact-checking was Schumer’s claim that none of these laws “passed with bipartisan support, not one.”
In five of the states Schumer listed, the new voting measures he is referring to did pass with bipartisan support. For example, in Kentucky, a Democratic governor signed a Republican bill into law. In Oklahoma, a GOP-led measure also had Democratic sponsors in the legislature.
When we reached out to Schumer’s staff, we were told quickly that he misspoke in his floor speech and that he would be correcting his remarks for the congressional record. (Update, June 18: The corrected remarks now appear in the congressional record.)
Schumer was calling for passage of the For the People Act, an overhaul of voting rights, campaign finance and ethics laws that President Biden and congressional Democrats have made a top priority. The bill passed the House in March but has not gathered the Republican support it would need to pass the Senate.
Supporters say the Democratic bill would increase avenues for voting nationwide and counteract the new restrictions surfacing in Republican-led states. Schumer spent several minutes lighting into those restrictions in his floor speech, saying they amounted to “the most sweeping attack on the right to vote since the beginning of Jim Crow” by especially targeting the voting habits of Black Americans and other minorities, as well as the young and the poor.
“Reducing polling hours in polling places. What does that have to do with election integrity? Mandating that every precinct, no matter how large or how small, have the same number of ballot drop boxes. What does that have to do with election integrity? It is saying urban areas should have less ability to vote than rural areas,” Schumer said. “No after-hours voting. No 24-hours voting. No drive-through voting. Requiring absentee ballots to be approved by a notary public. Making it a crime to give food and water to voters waiting in long lines at the polls.”
The Senate majority leader listed the states he was talking about: “Georgia, Iowa, Montana, Florida, Alabama, Utah, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Indiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Arkansas — this is where some of these policies that I just mentioned are now law.”
After a few tangents, Schumer returned to the For the People Act and said: “We Democrats wish a voting-rights bill would be bipartisan. By all rights, it should be. But the actions in state legislatures were totally partisan. None of these voter-suppression laws were passed with bipartisan support, not one.”
Although the new voting laws in states such as Georgia and Florida passed along strictly partisan lines, with no Democratic support, not all the state laws Schumer listed were as polarizing. Some are more moderate in scope; some include provisions that expand certain types of access to the vote while restricting others.
“While some states have stepped in a different direction, I’m really proud of Kentucky,” Beshear said after signing the bill, calling it “a good day for democracy.”
That law expands early voting options compared with Kentucky’s rules before the coronavirus pandemic. However, some aspects are more restrictive than the state’s temporary voting rules during the pandemic, as the measure also shortens the window to apply for a mail ballot and calls for occasional voter purges. The Brennan Center for Justice describes the Kentucky law as both an expansion and restriction of voting access.
In Utah, legislation to purge deceased voters from the state’s master list passed unanimously. “These were not the kinds of things, for example, that we saw in the state of Georgia,” Matthew Burbank, a political scientist at the University of Utah, told KUER NPR Utah. “Where it’s very clear that the state legislature was — in the guise of cleaning up the election process — just making it more difficult, particularly for minority voters. And that’s in a state where you have a very substantial proportion of minority voters. You don’t really have that here. And so I think Republicans didn’t feel like that was something that they were going to do in the state of Utah.”
A spokesman for Schumer responded quickly to our questions and said the senator’s remarks would be corrected in the congressional record. Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman said the senator meant to refer to Florida, Georgia and Iowa — not all the other states — when he said “none of these voter-suppression laws were passed with bipartisan support, not one.”
The corrected version of Schumer’s remarks reads: “We Democrats wish a voting rights bill would be bipartisan. By all rights it should be. But the actions in state legislatures like Georgia, Iowa, and Florida were totally partisan. None of these voter suppression laws were passed with bipartisan support. Not one.” The edited remarks also appear on his website, although no correction was appended to note the change.
The Pinocchio Test
Schumer’s original remarks on the Senate floor were clearly incorrect and worthy of several Pinocchios.
The Senate majority leader lambasted new voting restrictions in Republican-led states, listed 13 states by name, and later on in his speech added that “none of these voter-suppression laws were passed with bipartisan support, not one.”
In five of those states, the new voting laws Schumer was referring to did pass with bipartisan support. And in one of those five states, Kentucky, the measure was signed by a Democratic governor.
We’re not sure how Schumer could get it so wrong with prepared remarks in hand, but it’s good to see he took quick action to correct his speech for the congressional record.
As regular readers know, we often withhold Pinocchios when a politician admits error and sets the record straight. We will withhold Pinocchios for Schumer.
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