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History repeats with effort to protect voting rights, end filibuster

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Rachel Rhodes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised action on voting rights legislation this week, setting a deadline of Jan. 17 before pursuing procedural changes that may include altering the filibuster.

David A. Bateman

David A. Bateman

Assistant Professor

David Bateman, professor of government at Cornell University, is an expert on congressional politics and author of the book, “Southern Nation: Congress and White Supremacy after Reconstruction.” He says that inaction on voting rights could result in irreversible damage to electoral integrity in some states.

Bateman says:

“Efforts to protect voting rights always involve a fight over chamber rules. More than a century ago, the House abolished the filibuster in an effort to protect the right to vote; the Senate failed by a few votes to do the same, and the result was mass disenfranchisement of Black southerners for the next seventy years. 

“Legislative efforts to suppress turnout, to dilute the weight of certain votes, and even to undermine fundamental checks on electoral integrity are proceeding throughout the states. If Congress does not act quickly it is likely the damage will be irreversible for the foreseeable future. As has happened before, the longer Congress delays the more likely it will fail to act and the changes will be locked in. 

“There are already many exceptions to the filibuster: making an exception for legislation that would expand voting rights is different only in its urgency.”

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