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DUROSS: Voting rights or filibuster? Congress should focus on For the People

Democrats must focus on passing S.1, better known as the For The People Act.

<p>Every member of Congress should want to be on the right side of history by voting for this bill.</p>

Every member of Congress should want to be on the right side of history by voting for this bill.

While Congress over the past two months has largely been preoccupied with passing a COVID-19 relief package, there has also been a lot of speculation about which reforms the newly-Democratic Congress will take on next. For many Democrats it seems as though there are two measures, in particular, at the forefront of attention — the removal of the Senate filibuster and adopting legislation that will further protect voting rights. While the removal of the filibuster will certainly enable more Democratic reforms to pass through Congress, it is abundantly clear that an updated voting rights bill needs to be passed to provide for easier voter registration, seamless non-in-person voting options and the elimination of partisan gerrymandering. Therefore, Congressional Democrats must focus on passing S.1 — better known as the For The People Act.  

First and foremost, Congress must focus on passing S.1 because it dismantles the age-old practice of partisan gerrymandering. Once every decade following the census, state governments are given the task of reapportioning congressional seats and then redistricting districts. For decades, the party which dominates state houses across the country has been able to draw districts that cater to their respective party’s victory. The influence of this has been on full display with 59 seats in the House of Representatives having flipped over three election cycles since 2011 — the last redistricting period.  

This is incredibly important in 2021 when states will begin the process of redistricting congressional districts. These decisions will affect the outcome of federal elections for at least the next decade. Especially after the decision of Rucho v. Common Cause — a case in which the Supreme Court stated that federal courts have no jurisdiction over cases concerning partisan gerrymandering — it is solely up to Congress to pass measures which will reform partisan gerrymandering. To ensure fair and free elections, it is vital to install non-partisan redistricting committees to draw the lines of congressional districts — a solution outlined in the bill, which was also recently an amendment passed in Virginia this election cycle. 

Furthermore, the passage of this piece of legislation is critical in light of the 253 voter suppression bills being brought forward in 43 states since the 2020 election. S. 1 will allow for automatic voter registration, ensuring that every citizen is registered to vote unless they opt out, same day voter registration, protections on early mail-in voting and the enfranchisement of people previously imprisoned and convicted of crimes. All of these reforms will cut down on issues that the nation has seen grow over the past decade of election cycles — including long lines and voter roll purges, among countless other issues.

Finally, in addition to the plethora of reasons listed above, it would also be a colossal waste of momentum and political capital for the Democrats to focus on the filibuster first over voting rights. While the filibuster is a parliamentary procedure Congress could do without, it seems like this is a reform that would be very difficult, if not impossible, to pass in the current Senate. This is made even more difficult by the resistance from Sen. Joe Manchin from West Virginia — possibly the most powerful member of the Senate right now. Manchin swiped at a Bloomberg journalist March 1 about removing the filibuster, remarking, “Never… Jesus Christ, what don’t you understand about never?” It is probably safe to assume that the Democrats will not have Manchin’s vote on filibuster reform. Additionally, it is important to note that removing the filibuster is a relatively new platform adopted by Democrats as opposed to the fight for voting rights which has been ongoing for decades. 

With all of this being said, the For The People Act would be one of the most impactful bills of our generation and of this decade. Every member of Congress should want to be on the right side of history by voting for this bill. By voting Yea on this bill, Congress will be preserving our democracy through protecting every citizen's voting rights.

Evelyn Duross is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.

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