WASHINGTON — Voting rights took center stage in Washington Tuesday with Democratic leaders in the Senate bringing up a bill that would have dramatically changed elections across the country. The vote to begin debate on the bill failed along party lines, 50-50.
Instead of a patchwork of different election laws that varies from state to state, Senate Bill 1 would have standardized some election procedures from coast to coast.
For instance, voting registration deadlines are currently very different from one state to another.
In Ohio, for instance, you need to register 30 days before an election.
In Colorado, you can register to vote the day of the election.
SB 1 would have made it so registering to vote was possible in every state the day of an election.
Additionally, SB 1 would have created independent commissions to draw district boundaries and set a minimum number of days states must offer early voting.
WHY COMPROMISE IS FAILING
In order to become law, this legislation would have needed 60 votes to overcome the filibuster in the United States Senate.
That means 10 Republican Senators would need to join with 50 Democratic Senators in support.
Republican leaders have consistently criticized the legislation as a Washington take-over of elections.
Many conservative academics have agreed with that thinking.
Hans von Spakovsky, a fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said elections were intended to be run at the state level and not at the federal level by the country's founding fathers.
"The framers of the constitution were afraid that if the powers that be in Washington could set all the rules governing the election process they might be able to set the rules in a way that ensures they remain in office," von Spakovsky said in an interview.
WHAT IS AT STAKE
Democrats across the country view it differently.
"Voting rights are under attack," Chris Hollins, the former election clerk in Harris County, Texas said.
Hollins says Texas is particularly vulnerable to election law changes because of inaction and the inability to compromise in Washington, D.C.
For instance, conservative lawmakers in Austin are poised to ban drive-thru voting in Texas.
Hollins says drive-thru voting was particularly useful in breaking voting records in 2020.
"We are in a real bind here and when I say “we” of course I mean Texans, but ultimately I mean Americans because this is happening across our country," Hollins said.
The Brennan Center for Justice estimates nearly 400 laws have been proposed across the country to restrict voting in some capacity following the 2020 elections.
WOULD RESTRICTIONS ACTUALLY STOP VOTING?
A big question is whether new restrictive voting laws would actually stop someone who wants to vote from actually voting.
Brittany Hyman says "yes."
"It was my first time voting and I did drive-thru voting," Brittany Hyman, a new Texas mom said in a recent interview.
Hyman says because she was pregnant in November of 2020, she would not have walked into a voting booth, especially during COVID-19.
"I was pregnant at the time, I was being very cautious. It gave me an option I would not have had otherwise," Hyman added.