“Some People Don’t Want Some People to Vote”: Senator Reverend Warnock Urges Bipartisan Support for Swift Federal Action to Combat Recent Onslaught of Voter Suppression Proposals in Georgia, Nationwide

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voter suppression, Senator Warnock urged his colleagues to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act, federal legislation to protect and expand voting rights for all eligible Americans
Senator Warnock highlighted previous support for federal voting rights legislation from Democrats and Republicans, urgent need for bipartisan action in Congress to address voter suppression efforts sweeping the nation
Senator Reverend Warnock: “We may be tempted to dissect these [voter suppressive] bills, as if analyzing them piece by piece makes them more rational. But that narrow analysis only obscures the larger, unmistakable picture: this is a full-fledged assault on voting rights, unlike anything we seen since the era of Jim Crow”
Senator Reverend Warnock: “Voting rights should always be bipartisan. It is not the difference between right and left, but the difference between right and wrong.”

***WATCH FULL VIDEO OF SENATOR WARNOCK’S HEARING REMARKS HERE***

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing entitled “Jim Crow 2021: The Latest Assault on the Right to Vote,” where he discussed the on-going attacks against the right to vote in Georgia and across the country, and the urgency of passing federal voting rights legislation as a solution to these anti-democratic efforts. During his testimony, Senator Warnock called for bipartisan support for federal voting rights legislation like the For The People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and underlined how historically Congress has had no problem enacting federal protections for voting rights on a bipartisan basis. Senator Warnock’s remarks, and the hearing, followed the introduction of a slew of proposals in 47 states, including Georgia, seeking to curb voting rights for eligible voters: from making it harder to vote-by-mail by instituting prohibitive ID requirements, to limiting access to drop boxes, to empowering state politicians to usurp the power of local election officials. A voter suppression measure in Georgia which includes these provisions, and more, was signed into law in March.

Fellow Georgians Stacey Abrams, former Minority Leader in the Georgia State House and founder of Fair Fight, as well as Dr. Carol Anderson, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies and Chair of African American Studies at Emory University, also participated in today’s hearing.

Key Excerpts from Senator Warnock’s hearing remarks:

  • “Record numbers of Georgians used their voices and voted in the last election. And in response to this swell in democratic participation, politicians and our state legislature responded not in celebration, but with retaliation. Not seeing the outcome they wanted, they could have gotten busy changing their message or adjusting their policy. Instead, they got busy changing the rules as if the democracy belongs to them, and not the people.” 
  • “We may be tempted to dissect these bills, as if analyzing them piece by piece makes them more rational. But that narrow analysis only obscures the larger, unmistakable picture: this is a full-fledged assault on voting rights, unlike anything we seen since the era of Jim Crow.”
  • “Just fifteen years ago, the United States Congress re-authorized the Voting Rights Act of 1965 under a Republican President and with a bipartisan vote in the Senate of ninety-eight to zero. At the time, our colleague Senator Mitch McConnell, praised its passage, declaring it a law that would make a difference for all of America. Many members of this Committee, including the Chair and Ranking Members, enthusiastically voted in favor of it. That was 2006—why shouldn’t voting rights legislation be just as bipartisan now in 2021, as it was in 2006.
  • “Voting rights should always be bipartisan. It is not the difference between right and left, but the difference between right and wrong.”
  • “Many argue that the U.S. Senate is dysfunctional and incapable of governing in a bipartisan manner. We can boldly refute these claims by coming together not as Democrats or Republicans, but as supporters of democracy itself, to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Together, these two bills would turn the tide against state-level voter suppression proposals across the country.”
  • “As we move forward in this discussion. I’ve asked myself on many occasions: What would have happened had we not passed federal legislation, affirming the covenant of our democracy in 1965? Where would Georgia be? How would it prosper on the other side of the segregationists’ curtain? We had not acted in 1965, what would our country look like? Surely, I would not be sitting here. Only the 11th Black senator in the history of our country. And the first Black senator in Georgia. And maybe that’s the point.”
  • “We’ve got to act. History is watching us. Our children are counting on us, and we must pass federal voting rights legislation, no matter what.”

Full Transcript of Senator Warnock’s testimony: 

“Thank you Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley, and members of the committee for inviting me here today. I’m especially glad to join these distinguished witnesses.

“Mr. Chairman, I come here today to stress the critical need for the federal government to act urgently to protect the sacred right to vote. America is a land where possibility is born of democracy. Our vote is our voice, a chance to help determine the direction of the country and our own destiny within it.

“Record numbers of Georgians used their voices and voted in the last election. And in response to this swell in democratic participation, politicians and our state legislature responded not in celebration but with retaliation. Not seeing the outcome they wanted, they could have gotten busy changing their message or adjusting their policy. Instead, they got busy changing the rules as if the democracy belongs to them, and not the people. 

“We’ve seen voter suppression bills since the election in November and January in Georgia and across the country, we have witnessed the introduction of over 360 voter suppression bills in forty-seven states—an increase of one hundred bills since I highlighted this issue on the Senate floor just a month ago. As of today, five of these bills, including in my state of Georgia, have been signed into law.

“These efforts vary in exactly how they suppress voting. Some new laws, like in Georgia, will make it harder to vote by mail. Some will make lines that already too long, longer, harder to cast that provisional vote.

“The new law also gives state politicians—some of the same politicians who still today refuse to acknowledge President Biden’s lawful and decisive victory—the power to override local election officials.  

“We may be tempted to dissect these bills, as if analyzing them piece by piece makes them more rational. But that narrow analysis only obscures the larger, unmistakable picture: this is a full-fledged assault on voting rights, unlike anything we seen since the era of Jim Crow.

“For all their differences in exactly how they suppress the vote, what these bills all share is that they are predicated on the Big Lie: that the outcome of our last elections were the result of fraud, or at least the presidential election. I guess the members who won their elections are okay with that outcome.

“The truth is politicians in their craven lust for power, are willing to sacrifice our democracy by using the Big Lie as pretext for their true aim: some people don’t want some people to vote.  

“To be sure, we have seen these kinds of voter suppression tactics before aimed at the same communities. They are a part of a long and shameful history in Georgia and throughout our nation. But that history is also filled with moments of hope and promise, when our nation has come together in recognition that preserving our democracy is absolutely essential. Voting rights are preservative of all other rights.

“Just fifteen years ago, the United States Congress re-authorized the Voting Rights Act of 1965 under a Republican President and with a bipartisan vote in the Senate of ninety-eight to zero. At the time, our colleague Senator Mitch McConnell, praised its passage, declaring it a law that would make a difference for all of America. Many members of this Committee, including the Chair and Ranking Members, enthusiastically voted in favor of it. That was 2006—why shouldn’t voting rights legislation be just as bipartisan now in 2021, as it was in 2006. Voting rights should always be bipartisan. It is not the difference between right and left, but the difference between right and wrong.

“Many argue that the U.S. Senate is dysfunctional and incapable of governing in a bipartisan manner. We can boldly refute these claims by coming together not as Democrats or Republicans, but as supporters of democracy itself, to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Together, these two bills would turn the tide against state-level voter suppression proposals across the country.

“These pieces of legislation would expand and protect access to the ballot for every citizen—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Because strengthening our democracy does not benefit one party over another. Instead, democracy reform benefits all of us by ensuring that our government is of the people, by the people, for the people.

“John Lewis was my parishioner. I was honored on many occasions to stand with him as we took people to vote after church at Ebenezer. He understood that our democracy transcends all else. And he nearly died on the Edmund Pettus Bridge defending it.

“Today, our country faces the most widespread assault on voting rights since that era. The four most powerful words in a democracy are, “the people have spoken.” The highest and most sacred action that the Senate can take is to protect the right of the people, like it did in 1965.

“As we move forward in this discussion. I’ve asked myself on many occasions: What would have happened had we not passed federal legislation, affirming the covenant of our democracy in 1965? Where would Georgia be? How would it prosper on the other side of the segregationists’ curtain? We had not acted in 1965, what would our country look like? Surely, I would not be sitting here. Only the 11th Black senator in the history of our country. And the first Black senator in Georgia. And maybe that’s the point.

“It concerns me that some don’t hear the irony in their statement that we must protect minority rights in the Senate while refusing to protect minority rights in the society. 

“We’ve got to act. History is watching us. Our children are counting on us, and we must pass federal voting rights legislation, no matter what.”

Watch full video of Senator Warnock’s hearing remarks HERE.

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