Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding new voter suppression legislation being put forward in state legislatures that are discriminatory against people of color. Senator Schumer said it is “very difficult not to see the tentacles of America’s generations-old caste system, typically associated with slavery and Jim Crow, stretching into the 21st century and poisoning the wellspring of any true democracy: free and fair elections.” Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
The story of American democracy is a long and messy one, full of contradictions and halting progress. It was a century and a half after our founding before women got the right to vote, another half-century before African Americans could enjoy the full rights of citizenship. It took mighty movements and decades of fraught political conflicts to achieve even those basic dignities, and establish the United States as a full democracy, worthy of the title.
But any American who thinks that today, in 2021, that that fight is over—that the fight for voting rights is over—is sorely and sadly mistaken.
In the wake of the most recent election—an election that the former president has repeatedly lied about and claimed was stolen—more than 253 bills in 43 states have been introduced to tighten voting rules under the pernicious, nasty guise of “election integrity.”
In Iowa, the state legislature voted to cut early voting by nine days, polls will close an hour earlier, and they voted to tighten rules on absentee voting, which so many—the elderly, the disabled, the frail—depend on.
In Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers have proposed limiting ballot drop boxes to one per municipality. A municipality of hundreds of thousands, and a tiny one, get the same treatment: one drop box. I wonder why. I wonder why.
In Arizona, one Republican legislator wants to pass a law allowing the state legislators to ignore the results of the presidential election and determine their own slate of electors. One legislator in Arizona wants to pass a law allowing state legislators to ignore the results of the presidential election and determine their own slate of electors.
That doesn’t sound like democracy. That sounds like dictatorship.
The most reprehensible of all efforts might be found in Georgia, where Republicans have introduced a bill to eliminate all early voting on Sundays, a day when Black churches sponsor get-out-the-vote drives known as “souls to the polls.”
We have supposedly—supposedly—come a long way since African Americans in the South were forced to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar in order to be allowed to vote, but it is very difficult to look at the specific laws proposed by Republican legislatures around the country—designed to limit voter participation in heavily African-American and Hispanic areas, to lower turnout and frustrate election administration in urban districts and near college campuses, to gerrymander the districts to limit minority representation “with almost surgical precision”, to specifically target and thwart Black churches from organizing voting drives—it is difficult, very difficult not to see the tentacles of America’s generations-old caste system, typically associated with slavery and Jim Crow, stretching into the 21st century and poisoning the wellspring of any true democracy: free and fair elections.
We see a lot of despicable things these days, but nothing—nothing—seems to be more despicable than this.
When you lose an election in a democratic society, you update your party platform to appeal to more voters. You don’t change the rules to make it harder for your opponents to vote. Especially not African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and other voters who have been historically disenfranchised. That response is toxic to democracy. And indeed, it is the very opposite of democracy.
Make no mistake: these despicable, discriminatory, anti-democratic proposals are on the move in state legislatures throughout America. They must be opposed by every American—Democrat, Republican, Independent, liberal, conservative, moderate—who cherishes our democracy. It’s incredible what they’re trying to do. Incredible. We must do everything we can to stop it.