Tuesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in the aftermath of January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol that Republicans are drawing up new voter laws that punishes Blacks and minorities for their growing voting power. These bills were also designed to promote “election integrity” after former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 Presidential Election. Schumer, along with Senator Raphael Warnock, gave Republicans a January 17th deadline to allow a debate on proposed federal voting reform bills. If not, Schumer said he would consider changing Senate rules to force a debate on the floor.

Schumer and Warnock emphasized the urgency of passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, legislation that will strengthen and expand access to the ballot box for all eligible Americans.

“Republican legislatures are changing the rules and preventing poor people, people of color, people who live in cities, older people, disabled people, young people from voting. It’s not aimed at everybody, it’s aimed at particular groups and we all know to achieve political advantage. Republican state legislatures are promoting the big lie to justify disenfranchising legitimate voters,” Schumer said.  

United States Senator Reverend Raphael G. Warnock speaks during a press conference at the Atlanta Beltline headquarters on Friday, May 21, 2021. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Senators Warnock and Schumer (D-NY) were joined by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Alex Padilla (D-CA).

Notably, Schumer and Warnock did not explicitly say they would do away with the filibuster. But, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), says he’s in favor of doing away with the 60-vote threshold needed to start a debate on proposed legislation.

“That’s a rule change I would think Republicans—they’ve been for that before,” Manchin said.

But, Manchin is still in favor of the filibuster, which would give Republicans the right to block senators from ending debate on the bill and preventing a final vote to take place.

Warnock is in favor of the nuclear option, which would do away with the filibuster and would require all 50 Democratic Senators to vote in favor of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. Vice President Kamala Harris would be the deciding vote in the Senate.

“I’m the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached and I take great umbrage when Members of this body would use old trite states rights arguments, the same kinds of states rights arguments that were used against Dr. King back then, to push against reasonable access to the ballot right now,” said Warnock. “Many of these same politicians will stand up in just a few days and they will give lip service to Martin Luther King Jr. Well, you cannot remember Dr. King and dismember his legacy at the same time. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act and Freedom to Vote Act is the legacy of Dr. King and if you would give lip service to his name, you need to find yourself on the right side of history pushing to get these bills done.”

Senate Bill 202 in Georgia was one such law that many Republicans claimed would make voting in elections easier and harder to cheat. It passed along party lines on March 25, 2021. Three months later, the United States Department of Justice filed a lawsuit alleging, “several provisions of Senate Bill 202 were adopted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race.”

Georgia Senate Pro Tempore and candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Butch Miller, filed a bill on December 13, 2021 which would ban absentee dropboxes in the state.

“Drop boxes were introduced as an emergency measure during the pandemic, but many counties did not follow the security guidelines in place, such as the requirement for camera surveillance on every drop box,” Miller said. “Moving forward, we can return to a pre-pandemic normal of voting in person.”

However, Senator Warnock is not buying what state and national Republicans are selling.

“It is very clear what the Republican Party is up to— they are trying to make it harder for some people to vote and easier to cheat,” Warnock said. “We’re trying to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. And I predict that over the next few days, you’re going to hear the same Republicans give a lot of lip service to bipartisanship. I believe in bipartisanship, I’d like to see us participate in a bipartisan way, which is why I had hoped they would have allowed us to have a debate on the voting bills that are in front of us. That’s what they blocked three times in the Senate— our ability to have a bipartisan debate about an issue that the American people are debating over right now.”

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...