Democrats Seek to Change the Narrative on Voting Rights

Photograph by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images

A poll volunteer checks a voter’s ID in Cleveland, Ohio.

Representative Dina Titus of Nevada calls it “the renewed civil rights issue.”

Titus is one of more than 165 Democratic members of the U.S. House who have signed onto legislation, introduced by civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia, to provide for same-day voter registration and early-voting periods. The aim is to avoid a repeat of the long lines at the polls that frustrated many voters during the Nov. 6  presidential election.

Democrats are using the bill to try to change the narrative on voting rights. Efforts in some Republican-controlled state legislatures have focused on enacting voter-identification laws in order to curb what proponents say is voter fraud — even as studies have shown that the problem is rare.

“There are some in the Republican Party who feel the only way they can win elections is by suppressing the vote,” said Representative Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat and a co-sponsor of Lewis’s measure. “In this country, it’s easier to get a gun than to vote.”

Democrats say they are reaching out to Republicans, who control the House and can block legislation originating in the Senate. So far, there is no hint of bipartisanship. Republicans, such as Representative Candice Miller of Michigan, who used to run elections as secretary of state, said the federal government shouldn’t be telling states how to handle their responsibilities.

“There are no one-size-fits-all solutions,” she said. “Therefore, forced changes to state election procedures, especially the sweeping changes proposed in this legislation, are of particular concern.”

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