House Passes Broad Elections Overhaul Likely to Stall in Senate

Mar 3, 2021
In The News

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a landmark bill on Wednesday to overhaul U.S. elections amid a pitched partisan battle sparked in part by false claims of fraud in the November election. The bill, H.R. 1, passed 220 to 210 in the House, but it is unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, as most Republicans oppose it. The bill would make it significantly easier to vote, limit gerrymandering of congressional districts, require third-party groups to reveal secret donors and reform a dysfunctional election watchdog, among other changes.... House Democrats passed a similar bill in 2019, which never came up for a vote in the Senate, which was then controlled by Republicans. While Democrats are now in charge of the upper chamber, they will not be able to reach the 60-vote threshold to defeat a filibuster and do not have the votes on their own side to change Senate rules and pass the bill on a simple majority. The bill’s author, Maryland Representative John Sarbanes, said the legislation would stop Republican efforts to add new voter restrictions, which have long been criticized for targeting minorities. “If we don’t pass it in this session of Congress, the 2022 election is going to be a story of increased voter suppression across the country,” he said. “Republican lawmakers are stampeding toward more obstacles to voting, blocking access to the ballot box in ways that could really create a kind of two-tiered society when it comes to how our democracy operates....” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made elections reform a top priority, designating the bill H.R. 1, and Sarbanes said Senate colleagues have assured him that it’s a priority, but it’s unclear how it will get around the procedural hurdles.... Sarbanes said there are ongoing conversations about other ways to get the bill through the Senate. Though he declined to say what has been discussed, he said he believes the filibuster should be adjusted for issues like elections. “When it comes to passing a bill that’s trying to restore majority rule in America, which I would argue that H.R. 1 is trying to do, it makes sense that passage would come with a simple up-or-down majority vote,” he said.