Sinema reaffirms that Congress is unlikely to save democracy in Texas

Arizona’s Democratic politician may have sounded the death knell of those in Texas who still hope Congress can save them from our State Republican crusade against fair access to voting and non-white electoral representation.

In her speech, US Senator Kyrsten Sinema – a mercury moderate and incompetent Progressive Democrat – reaffirmed her opposition to undermining the filibuster to pass extensive voting rights legislation. “While I continue to support these laws, I will not support separate actions that exacerbate the underlying disease of the divisions infecting our country,” Sinema said. It was a direct blow to President Joe Biden, who expressed his support for circumventing the Senate procedure.

Biden was in the building when Sinema spoke, behind closed doors plotting with Democrats in the Senate. When the president appeared, he did little to inspire confidence. “God’s honest answer is that I don’t know if we can do it,” Biden told reporters after Sinem’s speech. “As long as I’m in the White House, as long as I’m engaged, I’ll fight.”

The likely demise of voting reform is bad news for Biden and Lone Star democracy. Last summer, the Texas House Dems fled Austin to Washington, DC, in a desperate attempt to thwart Republican anti-voting omnibus legislation and force Congress to intervene with federal legislation that would stifle GOP efforts. Their lobbying had little effect. The day after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin – a Democrat and another key obstacle to the voting rights bill – met with some of those who violate the quorum, he flew to Texas for a collection hosted by the state’s largest GOP donors. Dems eventually returned to Austin empty-handed and watched as Republicans immediately broke through Senate Bill 1.

The new law bans innovation for voting that pioneered Harris County in 2020, such as drive-thru and 24-hour voting; it also restricts the distribution of ballot papers by post and imposes new identification requirements for postal tickets, together with increased protection for party voting observers.

As an early vote on the March primaries approaches, warning signals are flashing red all over Texas. Travis County announced this month that it had rejected about half of the mailing requests it received, mainly due to new restrictions imposed by SB 1. Harris County and Bexar County also rejected several hundred apiece.

Meanwhile, the elections in 2022 are to take place on maps freshly and shamelessly gerrymandered for the benefit of the Republicans. While colored Texans have accounted for 95 percent of the state’s population growth over the past decade, the Republican Party has done everything it can to prevent it from shifting to expanded political representation. For example, GOP maps have reduced the number of U.S. House of Representatives districts in which Hispanic and black voters make up the majority.

The Texas Democrats do not promise to occupy one of the state legislatures or the governor’s seat soon, and with conservative-dominated state and federal justice, Congressional action has proved possible as the only way to fairer maps and access to elections in Texas.

The U.S. House of Representatives this week approved “Freedom to Vote: The John R. Lewis Act,” a 735-page volume that overhauls the country’s electoral system and deprives significant reactionary state lawmakers of their control. The bill would require online voter registration on the same day, set a minimum time window for early voting, ease stringent voter registration requirements and limit gerrymandering for party gain.

The legislation would also resume a process known as pre-clearance, where states with a proven history of voter discrimination – such as Texas – must seek federal approval to make changes to the electoral law and electoral maps. Preliminary customs clearance was evicted by the US Supreme Court in 2013, paving the way for Texas and other states to discriminate more freely.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would still vote on the legislation in the coming days, but without the help of the Republican Party, every Democratic vote in the House needs to push the rapist and pass the bill. With both Sinema and Manchin, the other gravedigger for democratic ambition, opposed, it is unclear how legislation can prevent premature extinction.

David Berry

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