Black voters in South Carolina cast ballots

People cast their ballots at the Richland County Voter Registration amd Elections Office on October 6, 2020 in Columbia, South Carolina.

(Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

'The Right to Vote Is Under Attack' as House Republicans Pass SAVE Act

"Republicans want to throw up barriers because when people vote, they lose," said Congresswoman Summer Lee.

Democracy defenders on Wednesday said House Republicans' passage of a bill that would require proof of U.S. citizenship to vote in federal elections is an attack on voting rights that underscores the need to pass comprehensive legislation to protect ballot access for all.

House lawmakers voted 221-198 in favor of the Safeguard American Voter Eligibility (SAVE) Act, introduced by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas). Every Republican present voted for the bill; all but five House Democrats rejected it.

Republicans claim the bill is meant to fix the virtually nonexistent "problem" of noncitizen voter fraud. Critics accused GOP lawmakers of ulterior motives.

"When we say that the right to vote is under attack, we're not talking about hypotheticals. It is under attack right here, right now with this bill," Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) said on the House floor before Wednesday's vote. "Republicans want to throw up barriers because when people vote, they lose."

"Let me be clear: They don't want you to vote," Lee added. "They don't want to hear Black voices, brown voices, LBGTQIA+ voices, young voices. Our fundamental access to our democracy is being politicized. And this xenophobic attack that we're debating today will make it harder for Americans to vote."

Lee highlighted her recently introduced Right to Vote Act, "which would establish the first-ever affirmative federal voting rights guarantee, ensuring every citizen may exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot."

"This bill would enshrine people's right to vote and prohibit governments on all levels from restricting that right with bills like this one," she explained. "This bill is part of the Democrats' Freedom to Vote Act. And along with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, these are the types of bills we should be bringing to the floor, not this nonsense."

Referring to presumptive Republican presidential nominee and former President Donald Trump's 2020 conspiracy theory, Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of the democracy campaign at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said in a statement that "The SAVE Act is the Big Lie in legislative form."

Calling out the House speaker, a Louisiana Republican, Minkoff-Zern stressed that "extremist members of Congress like Mike Johnson are acting in bad faith to stop people from voting. The xenophobic election claims that underpin this bill are not based on factual evidence," he continued.

"If Congress is serious about protecting democracy, it will immediately prioritize the Freedom to Vote Act and John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act—as well as the Native American Voting Rights Act and [District of Columbia] Statehood—which would ensure that the voices and votes of all voters are heard in our elections," he added. "Next week, people will join more than 80 events around the country to honor the legacy of Rep. John Lewis [D-Ga.] by demanding action on these bills."

In a Tuesday piece referring to the far-right conspiracy theory that global elites are intentionally driving the demographic demise of nonwhite people in Western nations, Washington Post columnist Phillip Bump called the SAVE Act "Great Replacement Theory, now in legislation form."

"There's no evidence that noncitizen voting is a significant problem, much less a regular occurrence," Bump wrote. "The Heritage Foundation, which has for years been adamantly promoting the idea that voter fraud is rampant, has a database of demonstrated fraud. It includes fewer than 100 cases of noncitizen voting or voter registrations since 2002—a period during which more than 678 million votes were cast in presidential elections alone."

The bill will "make it harder for citizens to vote," which is "a central reason the League of Women Voters opposes the legislation," Bump asserted. "Require people to have documentation when they register to vote, and people without that documentation won't register—even if they're otherwise allowed to."

"Who are those people? Research published in January found that those without a valid driver's license are more likely to be young as well as nonwhite," he wrote. "They are often, in other words, people who lean Democratic."

"Win-win-win. Demonize immigrants, amplify the idea that elections are riddled with fraud, and make it harder for people who vote Democratic to vote," Bump added. "The SAVE Act is a neat little package of Republican interests."

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