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16 Jul 2021

Fighting The Big Lie

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July 16, 2021 Category: Politics Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers a speech on voting rights at the National Constitution Center, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden came to Philadelphia this week to talk about what his administration is doing about voting rights. But, if you were hoping he’d push for filibuster reform, you were disappointed.

By Denise Clay-Murray

As they milled around waiting for President Joe Biden to take the stage at the National Constitution Center on Tuesday, the lawmakers, voting rights activists and others were talking about House Bill 1300.

Under this legislation, which was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf, voters would have to show ID at their polling places all of the time, not just at a new polling place as is required currently. Signature checks would have been required for all mail-in ballots. And ballot drop boxes would have been limited to one per 100,000 residents, which would have impacted access for cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

“There was no Democratic input, which is why he vetoed it,” said State Rep. Jordan Harris, the Democratic whip for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. “Two years ago, we passed bipartisan voting reform in Pennsylvania. But [House Bill 1300] was a voter suppression bill.”

Legislation like House Bill 1300 was what brought Biden to the National Constitution Center to talk about what his administration was doing to protect the right to vote on at the federal level, despite the fact that the two bills designed to do that — the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For The People Act — are languishing in the Senate.

Because of how frequently these bills have been popping up, and at whom they appear to be aimed, Philadelphians have to stay on top of things.

“We need to be very vigilant about what is happening right now,” Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said. “Somehow, it’s become okay if you’re a member of the Republican party, to end democracy. That’s not happening. We’re not having it in Philly, and we will use all the tools we have in the toolbox to make sure our democracy goes on.”

Biden promised to do the same on the national level during his speech. He pointed out that 17 states have enacted 28 laws aimed at making it harder to vote, and 400 additional bills are on the to-do list for Republican legislatures who have bought in to what’s being called “The Big Lie,” or former President Donald Trump’s assertion that the 2020 election was rigged against him.

That these laws exist, and that there are still requests being made for so-called “election audits” and recounts for an election that had to be one of the most dissected, scrutinized and analyzed in the country’s history show what happens when you take being a sore loser to some pretty mind-blowing places, Biden said.

“It’s no longer just about who gets to vote or making it easier for eligible voters to vote,” he said. “It’s about who gets to count the vote — who gets to count whether or not your vote counted at all.  It’s about moving from independent election administrators who work for the people to polarized state legislatures and partisan actors who work for political parties.”

“They want the ability to reject the final count and ignore the will of the people if their preferred candidate loses,” Biden continued. “And they’re not only targeting people of color, they’re targeting voters of all races and backgrounds who did not vote for them. To me, this is election subversion.  It’s the most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history.” 

And these places are pretty un-American too.

“In America, if you lose, you accept the results,” Biden said. “You follow the Constitution. You try again. You don’t call facts “fake” and then try to bring down the American experiment just because you’re unhappy. That’s not statesmanship, that’s selfishness. That’s not democracy; it’s the denial of the right to vote.  It suppresses.  It subjugates. The denial of full and free and fair elections is the most un-American thing that any of us can imagine.”

“This isn’t about Democrats and Republicans; it’s literally about who we are as Americans,” Biden continued. “It’s that basic.  It’s about the kind of country we want today, the kind of country we want for our children and grandchildren tomorrow.  And quite frankly, the whole world is watching.” 

To fight that threat, Biden said, it’s going to take all of us.

“We have to forge a coalition of Americans of every background and political party — the advocates, the students, the faith leaders, the labor leaders, the business executives — and raise the urgency of this moment,” he said.

Toward that end, Biden announced to the audience that Attorney Gen. Merrick Garland will be challenging these new voter laws in the courts and is also doubling the number of staff in the DOJ’s Voting Rights division.

But while he also pledged that he and Vice President Kamala Harris would continue to fight for the John Lewis Voting Rights bill and the For The People Act, reforming the filibuster to make passing these laws possible never came up during Biden’s speech.

That said, Biden’s speech did provide some encouragement to those in attendance.

“I thought that he hit on all the right points,” said Kadida Kenner, executive director of The New Pennsylvania Project, a voting rights group. “And I’m glad that he came to Pennsylvania because, obviously, our voting rights are under attack here in the Commonwealth. I think that he was right on point.”

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