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Senator Chuck Schumer


The story of democracy in America has been a long and arduous march towards universal suffrage. That march—advanced by generations who have protested, sacrificed, and even died in the struggle for freedom—has not always been linear; moments of progress have often been met with stretches of backlash.

Sadly it seems we are in one of those periods of backlash, led by one party and spearheaded by the most contemptuous president in modern history.

Across the United States, at least 19 states passed laws last year that will make it harder for Americans to vote in the upcoming election. These laws are not aimed at everyone, rather they target all the ways that certain voters—especially people of color—access the ballot box. This represents an existential threat to the promise of self-rule which previous generations have fought to fulfill.

In the fight to protect democracy, all of us have a part to play: everyday citizens, local election workers, and organizers and community leaders.

And that is especially true of the United States Senate, which has risen to the challenge to defend voting rights at critical moments in the past.

At the beginning of this year, I was proud to lead Senate Democrats in our fight to pass common sense voting rights legislation. The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are two important measures that would strengthen our democracy and make it easier—not harder—for Americans to participate in our elections.

Sadly, we faced an uphill fight from the start, and ultimately not a single Republican joined us to advance these bills. Nor would any of them work with the vast majority of Democrats who support modest rule changes to make the Senate function more effectively. As a result, these bills for now remain stalled.

I firmly believe in my bones, however, that the only thing worse than having lost the fight would have been to avoid the fight entirely. It's sometimes easy to forget that landmark civil rights bills often face initial defeat: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after all, was passed only after President Kennedy tried and failed to pass that same bill a year earlier.

Despite the outcome earlier this year, a few things are clear about the path forward. For one, every single Senate Democrat is on record supporting the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and Republicans who oppose these bills are on record too. Likewise everyone is now on record on how we can reform the Senate to make it possible for us to one day pass these bills, and we will keep working towards this goal in the months and years to come.

The lessons of history are clear: when elected officials have to take a stand, when they have to go on record and show the American people where they are on the issues, then the right side of history ultimately prevails.

I believe the same will hold true in this fight to protect our Democracy. The forces that oppose democracy today are strong, but as we’ve seen in recent history the resolve of the American people is stronger. The fight for voting rights must now continue in other arenas, from the campaign trail, to the courts, to the fight for fair and balanced legislative maps. But it will likewise continue in the Senate.

Senate Democrats will never stop working until common sense voting rights is also passed into law. The struggle to pass voting rights legislation is not over, far from it. We will keep fighting until voting rights are protected for every single American.

And one day, we will succeed.


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