Democratic lawmakers are concerned about equality as it pertains to voting rights, and have attempted to pass bills to combat that with little success.
Voting is a constitutional right, yet many Americans believe there hasn’t been significant progress in racial equality as it pertains to voting rights since the civil rights era—over 65 years ago.
Just 32% of Black people said there has been significant progress in equality with voting rights as compared with 52% of white people, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. A majority of Black people said more needs to be done.
Concern about a lack of progress is much higher for Democrats, 86% of whom believe more must be done to secure racial equality in voting rights, compared with 40% of Republicans, the AP reported.
The results of the AP’s poll could explain why Democrats have faced problems as they pushed for a federal overhaul of voting laws.
Democratic lawmakers were unable to get enough votes to pass The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act in January. While the Act passed the US House along party lines, including Pennsylvania’s delegation, it stalled in the Senate.
The bill would have:
- made Election Day a national holiday
- ensured access to early voting
- allowed all voters to cast ballots by mail
- and enabled the Justice Department to intervene in states with a history of voter interference.
The bill included provisions for national automatic voter registration. It also would have banned partisan gerrymandering of voting districts.
Pennsylvania’s senators, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey, voted along party lines as well.
“Whether you’re a 35-year-old woman of color living in Allentown or an 85-year-old farmer living in rural Somerset County, you deserve equal access to the ballot,” Casey said in a social media post after the Act failed to pass. “You should be able to vote when and where it’s possible for you to do so. Voting isn’t a privilege. It’s a right.”
The AP poll also showed that a majority of Americans in both major parties think voting rules in their states are appropriate, but Democrats are increasingly worried about progress in voting rights for Blacks.
That’s a reflection of the continuing partisan fight over election procedures, as Pennsylvania’s state GOP lawmakers continue a court battle over the state’s mail-in voting law, Act 77.
Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law will remain in place, at least for the near future, thanks to an order by the state’s Supreme Court earlier this month. The administration of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf asked the Supreme Court to keep the law intact during the litigation, arguing that stopping mail-in voting ahead of the spring primary season “would, if anything, only exacerbate voter confusion and the danger of disenfranchisement.”
Democrats have used the mail-in option far more than have Republicans during the pandemic. Many of the Republicans in the General Assembly who voted for Act 77 now oppose it, including 11 of the plaintiffs in the current legal challenge.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.