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Texas Dems in DC

Texas State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-141), joined by fellow Texas state representatives, speaks at a press conference on voting rights on July 30, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

100+ State Lawmakers Join Texas Dems in DC to Demand Passage of For the People Act

"I really want to make sure they understand what we're going through in Florida," said one legislator, calling for "a federal firewall from these state voter suppression activities."

Jessica Corbett

More than 100 state lawmakers from across the United States converged on Washington, D.C. Monday to join Texas Democrats—who fled Austin to block voter suppression legislation—in demanding that the U.S. Senate pass the For the People Act.

The sweeping pro-democracy bill was approved by the Democrat-controlled House in March, but it has stalled in the evenly divided Senate. In June, Republican senators blocked debate on the For the People Act, fueling calls for Democrats to abolish the legislative filibuster.

The "week of action" featuring state legislators was organized by Declaration for American Democracy (DFAD), a coalition of advocacy groups that supports the For the People Act and last week called on the Senate to delay the recess set to begin Friday until it passes the legislation.

CNN reports that organizers are planning "a series of events and meetings with federal lawmakers throughout the week to underscore the urgent need to pass legislation protecting the right to vote before the end of summer and undo anti-voter laws in time for the 2022 midterm elections."

Florida state Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (D-47) told the Washington Post that "I really want to make sure they understand what we’re going through in Florida. If we don't get this Congress to act, and the Biden administration to put pressure on voting rights, then I'm very worried about the ability of everyday Floridians to have their voices heard in the election process."

Eskamani—whose state was among those that enacted anti-democracy legislation this year in the wake of the 2020 election and lies about voter fraud from former President Donald Trump and other key figures in the GOP that provoked the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol—emphasized the need for "a federal firewall from these state voter suppression activities."

State legislators in 49 states have introduced more than 400 bills with voter suppression provisions during the 2021 legislative sessions, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. At least 18 states have enacted 30 of those laws.

In a March analysis, the Brennan Center detailed how the For the People Act—which includes provisions for improving ballot access, boosting election security, limiting the influence of dark money, and strengthening ethics rules—could counteract the GOP-led attacks on voting rights.

"The Big Lie has infected nearly every state legislature in the county, giving rise to a calculated and brazen assault on the freedom to vote," Texas state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-116) told CNN. "Texas has always been a hotbed for the worst anti-voter laws in the country, but this time it's worse than ever."

"We came to Washington, D.C. to demand action and draw the nation's eyes to the fight for the freedom to vote," he added. "Now, we are heartened to welcome over 100 state legislators from across the country to share their stories and call on Congress to save our country by passing the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act."

Some of the lawmakers traveling to the nation's capital repeated DFAD's declaration last week that "recess can wait." The coalition's president, Jana Morgan, has urged Senate Majority Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to delay senators' vacation and President Joe Biden "to use the full power of the Oval Office to ensure that the For the People Act is signed into law before the end of summer and to not let the Jim Crow filibuster stand in the way."

Florida state Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-40) told CNN that "they shouldn't take a recess. Democracy comes first. My request is, recess can wait. Democracy can't."

Taddeo focused on redistricting, explaining that "this federal bill would really take the politics out of it, which has been the problem when it comes to the maps. Especially at this juncture that we're at with redistricting with new numbers coming out from the Census and all of us getting ready for the process in state legislatures."

In a White House readout on Friday, Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reiterated their commitment to the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

"Recognizing the challenges ahead, the four leaders agreed on the importance of advancing legislation reflecting the priorities and values of those two bills," the White House said. "The president, vice president, speaker, and senate leader agreed on the moral imperative of passing legislation to protect against voter suppression, electoral subversion, dark money, and partisan gerrymandering, and will continue working together toward that goal urgently."

However, Biden has stopped short of supporting an end to the filibuster, and certain centrists—particularly Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)—still stand in the way of giving Democrats the simple majority needed to change the chamber's rules.

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