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Politics Voting debate roils Washington but leaves many voters cold

07:40  19 june  2021
07:40  19 june  2021 Source:   msn.com

John Lewis voting rights bill faces bleak future in the Senate

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PLANO, Texas (AP) — Brenda Martinez, a 19-year-old community college student, thinks the government should help immigrant students more. Donald Huffman is worried about turning 50 next week with no work available because the federal government is delaying the pipelines he usually helps build. Binod Neupane, who just moved to Texas to research alternative fuels, wants action on climate change.

Beto O'Rourke, right, speaks with Stephanie Hanson before a canvassing drive by the Texas Organizing Project in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero) © Provided by Associated Press Beto O'Rourke, right, speaks with Stephanie Hanson before a canvassing drive by the Texas Organizing Project in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

The three Texas voters have little in common politically other than one thing — none considers voting and election reform, the issue that has dominated partisan debate this year, a top priority.

Fact check: Breaking down Mitch McConnell's spin on the John Lewis voting rights bill

  Fact check: Breaking down Mitch McConnell's spin on the John Lewis voting rights bill Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked Tuesday where he stands on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a Democratic bill that aims to prevent states from implementing racially discriminatory voting laws. © Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), joined by Senate Assistant Minority Leader John Thune (R-SD) (L) and Senate Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), speaks following a Senate Republican Policy luncheon at the Russell Senate Office Building on May 18, 2021 in Washington, DC.

As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over the practical aspects of how to run elections — clashing over details such as polling booth hours and the number of ballot drop boxes per county — many voters are disconnected from the fight. A passionate base of voters and activists on both sides may be intensely dialed in on the issue, but a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention.

Beto O'Rourke walks a neighborhood in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero) © Provided by Associated Press Beto O'Rourke walks a neighborhood in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

“Unemployment, climate change — this stuff should be on the top of the list, not the voting thing,” said Neupane, 34.

Democrats battle Republican-led voting curbs in Georgia

  Democrats battle Republican-led voting curbs in Georgia Democrats battle Republican-led voting curbs in GeorgiaMACON, Ga (Reuters) - Democrats and their allies are mounting a major effort to educate Georgia voters on sweeping new voting restrictions passed by the state’s Republican-led legislature ahead of next year’s crucial U.S. Senate and congressional races.

That disconnect is now the challenge before Democrats, who are trying to marshal public support for federal legislation that would thwart a series of new state laws tightening election procedures. With rallies, ads, White House events and a certain-to-fail vote in the Senate next week, Democrats are aiming to fire up their voters around the issue, hoping their passions hold through next year's midterms.

Beto O'Rourke speaks to Texas Organizing Project volunteers preparing to canvass a neighborhood in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero) © Provided by Associated Press Beto O'Rourke speaks to Texas Organizing Project volunteers preparing to canvass a neighborhood in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Republicans face their own pressures. Donald Trump's false claims of massive fraud in the 2020 election have so eroded some GOP voters' confidence that they say they won't vote again. Meanwhile, the party's push for additional restrictions runs the risk of driving away moderate voters.

Voting rights: Two activists set aside personal threats to fight new restrictions

  Voting rights: Two activists set aside personal threats to fight new restrictions This week, Cliff Albright and LaTosha Brown will board a 53-foot bus and launch a nine-city tour to rally support for federal legislation to combat new voting restrictions across the country. It's a tough job. But accomplishing near-impossible tasks is their speciality.This week, voting right activists Cliff Albright and LaTosha Brown will board a 53-foot bus and kick off a tour through the South. Their task: Rally public support for federal legislation to combat the raft of new state laws aimed at restricting voting rights.

That debate is still roiling in Texas, where the legislature is due to return to a special session to consider voting legislation. That comes after Texas Republicans, following the lead of Republican-controlled legislatures in more than a dozen states, tried to muscle through a sweeping elections bill that increased the power of partisan poll watchers, limited the power of local election officials and prevented voting on Sunday mornings when Black churchgoers traditionally flock to the polls. Democrats in the Texas House walked out in the final hours of the legislative session, depriving the GOP of the quorum needed to pass the bill.

Since then, advocacy groups have stepped up organizing and outreach. Former congressman and presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke has seized on the issue, holding rallies and knocking on doors to discuss voting, as he considers launching a campaign for governor. On Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris, the Biden administration's point person on the voting debate, hosted the Texas Democrats at the White House.

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  Biden confronts the limits of an already limited arsenal on voting rights Gridlock awaits in Congress. So the White House is looking to use the bully pulpit to move the public, pressure businesses and put a spotlight on state laws.In April, standing inside the House chamber, Biden declared that the only way to restore the country's soul was "to protect the sacred right to vote.

“We have a great challenge before us and a fight, which is to fight for every American's right — meaningful right — to vote,” Harris said as she was flanked by the Texas lawmakers.

Beto O'Rourke, right, listens to a volunteer before a Texas Organizing Project neighborhood walk in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero): Voting Laws Voters © Provided by Associated Press Voting Laws Voters

But Harris' message has yet to reach many back in the politically mixed suburbs north of Dallas, a potential battleground in next year's midterm elections. The swath of comfortable, diversifying neighborhoods was once dominated by the GOP but is now politically divided.

As a heat wave this week brought fresh warnings of blackouts reminiscent of the electrical grid's collapse during a February snowstorm, several voters were confused about why legislators are spending so much time on election issues.

“Making it difficult for people to vote, it's just ridiculous,” said Marcin Mazurek, a 50-year-old construction worker who only started following politics during the Trump era because he was so outraged by the former president.

Of more than a dozen voters interviewed, only one brought up the issue unprompted: Nathan Nowasky, a retired certified public accountant, Texas native and lifelong Republican whom Trump drove out of the party. He cited the state voting bill as one of the reasons he and his wife were “thinking about moving elsewhere, because Texas is a political backwater.”

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  Texas woman faces jail time after being convicted of voting illegally Crystal Mason is still fighting a conviction of illegally voting when she cast a provisional ballot in the 2016 presidential election. Her vote was never counted. Crystal Mason tried voting in the 2016 presidential election, but she didn't know she wasn't eligible, and her ballot was tossed.

A self-professed news junkie, Nowasky was familiar with the conspiracy theories and false allegations about the 2020 election. He believes the Texas voting bill is fueled by those ideas and illustrates the political extremism that pushed him out of the GOP. “There’s conservative, and then there’s this,” Nowasky said.

Texas Organizing Project volunteers listen to Beto O'Rourke speak before a neighborhood walk in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero) © Provided by Associated Press Texas Organizing Project volunteers listen to Beto O'Rourke speak before a neighborhood walk in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

The major political parties for years have fought furiously in the courts over the mechanics of elections. But rarely does the fight become a central part of the parties’ pitch to voters. That changed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many states liberalized their voting laws to make it safer to vote and Trump seized on the changes as a source of fraud, triggering new state laws often billed as making it “hard to cheat.”

Beto O'Rourke listens to a volunteer before a Texas Organizing Project neighborhood walk in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero) © Provided by Associated Press Beto O'Rourke listens to a volunteer before a Texas Organizing Project neighborhood walk in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

“It’s more of a live issue than it has been probably since the civil rights movement,” Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, said of voting rights. Still, she noted, voting remains relatively simple for most citizens. The voters most animated by the issue are those who believe the system is rigged against them or those who see a pattern of racial discrimination in new laws.

The pandemic changed how we vote. These states are making the changes permanent.

  The pandemic changed how we vote. These states are making the changes permanent. At least two states are moving to universal mail voting after Covid-19, while GOP-controlled Kentucky is among those expanding early voting.A handful of states are locking in voting-rights expansions that they piloted in 2020, extending early voting and absentee balloting programs even as other states add restrictions to voting.

“There are lots of people keeping it on the agenda even if, for your average swing voter, it’s not their No. 1 issue,” Greenberg said.

Kevin Bivens is one of those voters who's paying attention to the issue. He followed the debate in the legislature carefully and was frustrated that Republicans brushed off Democrats' attempts for a compromise. He sees the push as the latest in a long line of racial injustice.

“As African Americans, it’s nothing new to us,” said Bivens, who said he is in his 50s and has lived in Texas for decades, acutely aware that he is both a political and racial minority. “We know we have no power over what’s going on but our votes, and if you take that away from us ... ,” he said, trailing off.

In a December poll from The Associated Pres-NORC, only 7% of voters listed voting laws as a top issue, though it gained disproportionate interest from Republicans, 14% of whom cited it.

Martinez, who’s studying to teach English as a second language, is one of those people who hasn’t thought much about voting. She cast her first vote for Biden in November, and neither she nor anyone else in her family had any issues or concerns. “Everything was fine,” Martinez said. Martinez thinks it would be nice to vote by mail — something Texas makes difficult for most voters — but it's not an issue that drives her.

Beto O'Rourke speaks to Texas Organizing Project volunteers preparing to canvass a neighborhood in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. AP Photo/LM Otero) © Provided by Associated Press Beto O'Rourke speaks to Texas Organizing Project volunteers preparing to canvass a neighborhood in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. AP Photo/LM Otero)

Voting may be a side issue for many, but it could still play a role in helping Democrats solidify the coalition they assembled last year. Barbara Van Hollenbeck is a longtime Republican who voted for Biden last year — but still voted for Republicans for the legislature and Congress. She says she wanted a counterbalance to the Democratic president. Now, Van Hollenbeck says she's most worried about climate change and the economy, but she's also confused and concerned about what the GOP-led legislature is doing with voting.

Merrick Garland announces DOJ lawsuit against Georgia over new election law targeting Black voters

  Merrick Garland announces DOJ lawsuit against Georgia over new election law targeting Black voters Attorney General Garland vowed action against other states whose voting restrictions may violate federal law . The DOJ's Civil Rights Division says Georgia's controversial Senate Bill 202, which President Joe Biden compared to Jim Crow-era restrictions, aims to restrict the voting rights of Black Georgians "on account of their race of color, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act." Garland added that "Many of that law's provisions make it harder for people to vote," undercutting months of dubious Republican claims that the law did not restrict voting access.

West Dallas resident Julian Campos, left, listens to Beto O'Rourke, right, along with Texas Organizing Project volunteer David Villalobos during a neighborhood canvassing Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero) © Provided by Associated Press West Dallas resident Julian Campos, left, listens to Beto O'Rourke, right, along with Texas Organizing Project volunteer David Villalobos during a neighborhood canvassing Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

“Instead of punishing them, help them find a way to vote,” she said of voters.

Andy Wojtovec came at the issue from the opposite end of the political spectrum. “The last election was like communism,” said the 66-year-old Polish immigrant, who owns an air conditioning company and has cheered the lawmakers' voting changes. He claimed that Venezuela helped hack voting machines to hand the election to Biden — a common, discredited conspiracy theory in pro-Trump circles.

Beto O'Rourke, left, listens to Michael Sneed during a Texas Organizing Project neighborhood walk in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero) © Provided by Associated Press Beto O'Rourke, left, listens to Michael Sneed during a Texas Organizing Project neighborhood walk in West Dallas Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The former congressman and senatorial candidate is driving an effort to gather voter support to stop Texas' SB7 voting legislation. As politicians from Austin to Washington battle over how to run elections, many voters are disconnected from the fight. While both sides have a passionate base of voters intensely dialed in on the issue, a disengaged middle is baffled at the attention. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Huffman, the pipeline welder, also was suspicious about the election, “like everyone I know,” he said. A Trump supporter, he is convinced the only reason the former president didn't win in a blowout was some kind of fraud.

But as he sat in a booth in a branch of the Texas fast food chain Whataburger, Huffman was despondent. Though he has real estate assets to help him, he hasn't worked in months. He says he doesn't know what he'll do now that the Biden administration has put a moratorium on new energy projects on federal land.

And, in a worrying sign for the GOP, he not only had not heard of the party's election push, but he also wasn't convinced there was anything politicians could do to prevent massive fraud from happening again.

“I probably won't ever vote again,” Huffman said. “It feels like a waste of time.”

Merrick Garland announces DOJ lawsuit against Georgia over new election law targeting Black voters .
Attorney General Garland vowed action against other states whose voting restrictions may violate federal law . The DOJ's Civil Rights Division says Georgia's controversial Senate Bill 202, which President Joe Biden compared to Jim Crow-era restrictions, aims to restrict the voting rights of Black Georgians "on account of their race of color, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act." Garland added that "Many of that law's provisions make it harder for people to vote," undercutting months of dubious Republican claims that the law did not restrict voting access.

usr: 1
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