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Blocked by GOP, Senate launches new push on voting rights bill

Senate Democrats should try again to push forward sweeping elections and voting overhaul bill

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats are set to try again to push forward an elections and vote review bill, testing Republicans’ objections with a vote slated for next week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday .

In a letter to his colleagues, Schumer, DN.Y., said Republicans “must come to the table” to at least open debate on the bill. After weeks of preparation, the new version was drafted in the hope of gaining support at a time when states continue to create barriers to voting.

If Republican senators have ideas “on how to improve the legislation, we are ready to hear them, to debate them, and if they are consistent with the objectives of the legislation, to include them in the bill,” he said. Schumer said.

He challenged Republicans not to oppose the measure, blocking it with an obstruction, and “at the very least, vote to start the debate.”

A test vote is expected next Wednesday.

The outlook looks bleak for the Freedom to Vote Act, a revised effort by Democrats to advance one of their signature legislative efforts this year – to protect and improve the patchwork of state-run electoral systems. The push for an overhaul comes as Texas and other states put in place new election laws that critics say are a throwback to Jim Crow-style restrictions, making it difficult to vote, especially in communities black and minority.

A key Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has led efforts to revise an earlier version of the bill that met stiff opposition from the GOP. He too had concerns about its reach. But Manchin’s efforts on the now reduced bill are unlikely to win over many Republican supporters.

In the equally 50-50 Senate, Democrats hold only the smallest majority. Republican support is needed to reach the 60-vote threshold to move the bill forward in front of the opposition.

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky denounced the entire effort as a federal takeover of state-run electoral systems.

In the works for weeks, the revised legislation includes many of the same provisions as the previous bill, known as the People’s Law.

It would establish national rules for the conduct of elections and would include provisions that would limit, but not prohibit, state voter identification requirements, which are implemented in many states. Such changes in the bill were important to Manchin.

The new measure also removes language that would have created a publicly funded system for federal elections – a key objection by Republicans, especially McConnell.