Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) was arrested at the Hart Senate Office Building last week. The week before, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was cuffed with zip ties and briefly detained.
The protests have been organized by the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, along with several groups led primarily by Black women, with support from other voting rights groups. Virginia Kase Solomón, chief executive of the League of Women Voters, also was arrested Thursday, as was Johnnetta Cole, president of the National Council of Negro Women. Activists from Alabama and Georgia who came to Washington for the protest, also were taken into custody.
Carly Fiorina, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, joined several female leaders who spoke at a rally before the protest. She criticized a flood of laws being passed by state legislatures that voting rights advocates say will make it harder for people to vote. She noted that Republican officials including former U.S. attorney general William P. Barr and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had vouched that last year’s election was “transparent and efficient,” and “that fraud did not affect the outcome.” Former president Donald Trump has falsely claimed that he lost his bid for reelection because of rampant voter fraud. His campaign lost dozens of legal challenges and ballot recounts in his efforts to overturn the election.
“Does it make any sense that voting should be restricted to as short a time period as possible and that citizens must stand in line for hours at a time?” Fiorina said. “How can we justify that as these citizens wait to vote, they may no longer be offered a chair to sit or a bottle of water to drink?”
She was referring to measures by some states that would reduce the period for early voting and that would make it a crime to give food or water to people waiting in line to vote.
Fiorina said she supported the Voting Rights Act of 1965, including a provision struck down in 2013 by the Supreme Court requiring states with a history of discriminating against minority voters to seek approval from the Justice Department before changing voting laws or procedures. “Congress should require federal approval of any changes in election laws that make it harder to exercise our right to vote,” she said.
Speaking later to The Washington Post, Fiorina said she did not support eliminating the filibuster to pass the For the People Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The two bills have stalled in the Senate, split 50-50 between the parties, because they cannot clear the 60-vote threshold to avoid a filibuster and because two Democratic senators have said they do not support eliminating the procedural rule, which would allow the legislation to pass by a simple majority, with Vice President Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.
Other speakers, including leaders of groups representing Asian American, Jewish and Latino voters, said voting rights were important enough for Democrats to end the filibuster.
Senate Democrats on Tuesday said they were working on a revised bill that would include some compromises put forth by Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who has said he wants to get some Republicans to support the voting measure.