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Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On The Crucial Vote Tomorrow On Starting Debate On Legislation To Protect Americans’ Voting Rights

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the Senate taking a crucial vote on whether to start debate on major voting rights legislation. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

The Senate will soon vote on two more nominees to join President Biden’s Administration: Christopher Fonzone to serve as general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and Kiran Ahuja to be Director of the Office of Personnel Management. Those votes will happen tonight and tomorrow.

Discussions on a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a budget reconciliation bill, both moving forward, will continue throughout the week.

But tomorrow—tomorrow—the Senate will also take a crucial vote tomorrow on whether to start debate on major voting rights legislation.

I want to say that again. Tomorrow, the Senate will take a vote on whether to start debate on legislation to protect Americans’ voting rights. It is not a vote on any particular policy. It is not a vote on this bill or that bill. It is a vote on whether the Senate should simply debate the issue about voting rights, the crucial issue of voting rights, in this country.

Now, by all rights, we shouldn’t have to debate voting rights on the floor of the United States Senate. These rights should be sacrosanct. But the events of the last few months compel us to have this debate—now.

Why is there such urgency? Because of what’s been happening in Republican legislature after legislature in the last several months.

Voting rights—the most fundamental right of a democracy, the right that men and women have died for in wartime and in peacetime, the right by which all other rights are secured—are under assault, under assault, from one end of the country to the other.

In the wake of the 2020 elections, Donald Trump told a lie—a big lie—that the election was stolen from him by voter fraud.

There was no evidence for this. His own administration concluded that the 2020 election was one of the safest in history. His lawyers were laughed out of courts, many by Republican judges, some by judges he appointed, Trump appointed. But he kept saying it anyway.

He lied, over and over and over again. Donald Trump lied over and over and over again, poisoning our democracy, lighting a fire beneath Republican state legislatures who immediately launched the most sweeping voter suppression effort in at least 80 years.

Just a note: how despicable a man is Donald Trump? He lost an election legitimately. He can’t face that, that it was his failure, and he creates a lie, a big lie, and wins so many people over to that lie, with the help of news media and other news commentators who are lying as well, and they know it.

Again, Donald Trump, with his despicable lies, has lit a fire beneath Republican state legislatures and they have launched the most sweeping voter suppression effort in at least eighty years.

More than 250 bills in 43 states were introduced just between the months of January and February that would restrict the right to vote. Do you want to know how many were introduced during a similar period of time last year, the year before Donald Trump was telling the Big Lie? 35. 35 in 2020. More than 250 in 2021.

Today, in June, there have been nearly 400 bills introduced. The only thing that changed between 2020 and 2021 was Donald Trump’s Big Lie about massive fraud. And now, in states like Georgia and Iowa and Florida and Montana, these proposals are becoming law under the vicious guise of election integrity. The words election integrity are not a guise. There is nothing vicious about them. The way Republican legislatures are using those words is vicious and a guise, a falsity, a fakeness.

I want my Republican colleagues—maybe we can awaken their conscience, maybe on something as sacred as voting rights—I want my Republican colleagues to listen to some of the policies that have been proposed by Republican state legislatures, and tell me how they are about election integrity, how they are about suppressing fraud.

Reducing polling hours and polling places: how is that about election integrity? How does that reduce voter fraud?

Mandating that every precinct—no matter how large or small—have the same number of ballot drop boxes. A county of a million and a county of a thousand have the same number. How does that reduce fraud? What does that have to do with election integrity?

No after-hours voting, 24-hour voting, or drive-thru voting. What does that have to do with election fraud? It certainly has to do with reducing peoples’ right to vote and ability to vote. But nothing—nothing—to do with election fraud.

My Republican colleagues: how does making it a crime to give food or water to voters waiting in long lines at the polls deter voter fraud, which really we have found no evidence exists to begin with. Very little evidence.

And by the way: in so many states, if you are African American, if you are inner city, if you are poor, if you are brown, you have to wait a lot longer than if you are white and in a suburb. Don’t give them water, don’t allow them to have a drink, as they are waiting in the hot sun in lines to vote.

Yeah, what does that have to do with voter fraud? It has to do with cruelty. It has to do with nastiness, and it has to do with suppressing the vote.

Allowing a judge to overturn an election; allowing a partisan State Election Board to replace a duly-elected county elections board member if they’re “underperforming.” What does that have to do with fraud? What does that have to do with fraud?

Removing student IDs from the list of valid forms of identification. That is election integrity? Bunk.

We know what you are doing. You don’t want students to vote. Yeah, don’t have students vote: turn them off to the whole process and make America even more alienated.

Delaying the hours of Sunday voting until the evening, which, coincidentally—or not so coincidentally by these Republican legislatures—makes it harder for Black churchgoers to participate in voter drives after Sunday services.

How despicable. Does that sound like Jim Crow, my Republican colleagues? It sure does to a lot of us.

I challenge my Republican colleagues. I challenge you, Republican Senators, come to the floor, defend these policies. Tell us how they secure the vote. Tell us how they prevent nearly non-existent voter fraud.

How does removing student IDs as a valid form of identification secure our elections? Do you have any evidence that 40-year-olds are showing up at the polls with fake student IDs? Come on, show us.

How is criminalizing giving water or food to voters in a line a fraud-prevention measure? Got any evidence of that?

What arguments do Republicans have for restrictions on Sunday voting? That’s what Texas Republicans want to do. Do any of my colleagues actually have evidence that voter fraud is especially prevalent on the Lord’s Day? Please. We know what you’re up to, America knows what you’re up to.

And not to debate this? Are you afraid to debate it? Do you not have any good arguments?

Let’s dispense with this nonsense. There is no real principle behind these policies. They are not about election integrity, they are not about voter fraud. These policies have one purpose and one purpose only: making it harder for younger, poorer, non-white, and typically Democratic voters to access the ballot. To give Republicans a partisan advantage at the polls by making it harder for Democratic-leaning voters to vote.

When you lose an election, you’re not supposed to stop people from voting, even if they didn’t vote for you. That’s not democracy, my Republican friends. You lose an election, you’re supposed to try harder and win over the voters you lost.

Instead, Republicans across the country are trying to stop the other side from voting. That tears apart, rips apart, the very fabric of our democracy.

Disenfranchising millions of Americans is bad enough. But there’s actually another, sinister component of these voter suppression laws.

In states like Arizona, Kansas, Arkansas, Georgia, Republican legislatures are trying to give more power to themselves and other partisan bodies to undermine, override, or neuter bipartisan election boards and county election officials. It has always been bipartisan. They didn't like the result. They lost fair and square. Get rid of the election board officials, when there is no evidence they did anything wrong.

The cumulative effect will make it easier for followers of Trump’s Big Lie, for partisan Republicans to rig the rules and try to overturn election results.

I read this article in the New York Times this weekend. You could weep from reading it. They reported that at least 10 members of county election boards in Georgia have been removed, or are about to removed, in the wake of the new law passed by the GOP legislature.

These are the folks who are in charge of selecting ballot drop box locations. They pointed out an African American woman who had made sure that a poor area had a drop box every year, to allow people to vote. They want to kick her off the board. No one knows why. But we do know why. There is no real legitimate reason why.

According to the Times, who are they kicking off? At least five are people of color, most are Democrats and they’re all most likely to be replaced by Republicans.

Please, my colleagues. Read this article. Read this article, “How Republican states are expanding their power over elections,” by Nick Corsaniti and Reid J. Epstein. June 21, 2021. Read it!

Can you read this article and still believe what Republican legislatures are doing is on the level?

Can you read this article and believe that they are not trying to jaundice and bias voting in what has traditionally been a process that's free and open and fair in many places, in most places?

Read it, just read it. It makes you want to weep what they're doing. This nice lady who just wanted to help her people vote in a fair, honest way gets kicked off the board – or is getting kicked off the board.

I ask unanimous consent this full article be placed in the record.

My Republican friends are fond of saying they just want to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat in an election. But when you look at what they’re actually doing, it’s spectacularly obvious that Republicans are making it harder to vote and easier to steal an election. The Big Lie that started with Donald Trump is infecting them, infecting them. Lies don't matter, and they don't matter when it comes to the sacred process of elections: free, open, fair elections where everyone has an opportunity to vote.

Do my colleagues forget? Do you remember what Donald Trump did? Was he interested in a free, open, and fair election? Donald Trump tried to pressure local officials to overturn a democratic election in America. It was a stress test on our democracy unlike any in recent history. But our institutions held.

So now what do Republicans want to do? Change the rules. Change the election officials. Again, Trump tried to pressure local officials to overturn democratic elections, in a huge stress test on our democracy. Our institutions held. Local officials certified election results. The courts rejected spurious claims of fraud. Vice President Pence, no less, opened the proper envelopes. The House and Senate came together to count the results of the Electoral College in the immediate aftermath of an armed insurrection.

And now, now, because they couldn't win the election and because our institutions are democratic—small D democratic institutions—they want to change who's running the elections to be partisan and biased.

Republican state legislatures are actively removing many of the barriers that prevented Donald Trump from subverting our elections. Shame, shame, shame.

I lay all this information at the feet of my Republican colleagues. A sweeping effort to disenfranchise millions of voters, mostly Black and Brown, students and the working poor. An attack on the checks that held our democracy together in the face of Donald Trump’s assault.

Many of us wondered: would these institutions hold? Would Trump-appointed judges tell Trump lawyers that they are full of bunk and it wasn't fraud. They did. It was a glorious moment for our democracy. And the Republican majority here in the Senate wants to undo it and doesn't even want to debate it.

We can argue what should be done to protect voting rights and safeguard our democracy. But don’t you think we should be able to debate the issue. The vote tomorrow, to my people watching, is called the motion to proceed. It’s how we get bills on the floor of the Senate. It needs 60 votes to be able to be debated. Will our Republicans let us debate?

That's the only question on the table for the United States Senate tomorrow. And we’re about to find out how my Republican colleagues will answer that question.