Sen. Whitehouse blazes a path to voting rights passage; will it work?

January 20, 2022

Rhode Island U.S. Sen. Sheldon White House (D). Photo of President Franklin Roosevelt in background. Roll Call photo.

As I suspected, some U.S. Senators have been exploring Senate Rules for ways to shut down filibusters and other delaying tactics, but mainly to find a path around Republican filibustering of voting protection legislation.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) laid it out tonight, after Republicans blocked action on the John R. Lewis Act.

It’s likely Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell knows this path exists. But if Whitehouse is right, knowing the rules and being able to overcome them are two different things.

Every Senate wonk should take a look at Sen. Whitehouse’s plan.

One is my DISCLOSE Act being in the bill. Republicans must vote against it for their dark-money donors, but that kills them with voters. Ditto gerrymandering. Lots of focus on those painful votes for them in the bill will help.

Another is the Senate speak-twice rule. Senators who’ve spoken twice on a question can be ruled out of order if they keep at it. That’s why real filibusters were long, uninterrupted speeches. Not one and done, but two and done. (Yup, that’s 100 speeches by Rs — sorry!)

The motion to table allows the Senate to clear the decks of amendments. Each requires a vote, but is not debatable. Week after week, even through weekends, table the bad amendments.

“Dilatory” motions, amendments and other delaying mischief can be ruled out of order by the presiding officer. It takes a fair amount of nonsense before it becomes clearly dilatory, but it’s then a simple point of order—no vote.

There can be a vote to overrule the call, which is debatable; but when that fails, whatever motion or amendment was ruled dilatory ends.

So it’s painful, and long, and you have to exhaust Republican speakers and table or stop dilatory motions and amendments, but you can get to a simple majority vote — eventually.

One objection is that the Senate cannot afford to concentrate on one issue for so long. I wager that there is a lot of other business that can be conducted anyway, but Republicans would try to monkeywrench that stuff, too.

Taking a longer perspective, can we afford to let a tiny minority of Americans hold off action while they continue to plot to bring down our government?

Make no mistake that is what this is about.


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November 2, 2018

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How do Texas’s voter ID laws hurt Texas voters? This film shows how

April 30, 2015

Abbie Kamin, a Houston lawyer assisting Texas voters keep their right to vote, explains how Texas's voter ID laws hurt Texans, and damage democracy in the U.S.

Abbie Kamin, a Houston lawyer assisting Texas voters keep their right to vote, explains how Texas’s voter ID laws hurt Texans, and damage democracy in the U.S.

Video you won’t see at 11.

From the Texas Voter Identification Assistance Project, at the Campaign Legal Center.

Description:
Published on Apr 24, 2015

Under Texas’ new restrictive photo/voter ID law, more than 600,000 Texans now lack sufficient identification to vote in elections, with little to no help from the State of Texas to resolve the problems. The Texas Voter Identification Assistance Project, coordinated by the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit, provided assistance to Texas voters who wished to vote but lacked the newly required identification, and thus were disenfranchised.

At the Campaign Legal Center’s site, there’s a press release on the video, released to correspond with arguments on voter identification issues at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

CLC FILM RELEASE: On Day of Fifth Circuit Oral Argument, Meet Victims of Texas Voter Photo ID Law

CLC Staff

Apr 28, 2015

Today, the Campaign Legal Center released a short film focusing on three lifelong voters disenfranchised by Texas’ voter photo ID law (SB 14), the most restrictive and burdensome voter ID law in the nation.  The ten-minute film produced by Firelight Media traces the efforts of the Campaign Legal Center’s Voter ID Project to assist registered voters to overcome the many hurdles erected by the new law in order to obtain the photo IDs required by SB 14.

Today in Veasey v. Abbott, oral arguments will be heard in a challenge to that law, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.  Attorneys at the Campaign Legal Center serve as co-counsel for plaintiffs Congressman Marc Veasey, LULAC, and a group of Texas voters.

Following a two-week trial last fall, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos enjoined SB 14, finding that it was as an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote as well as an unconstitutional poll tax, had “an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”  The state defendants immediately appealed Judge Ramos’ decision. In mid-October, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed that decision solely to avoid confusion in the November 2014 elections, and the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently refused to vacate the Fifth Circuit’s stay.

The film released today traces the plight of three Texans who were victims of the Texas voter photo ID law and the massive effort required of many voters to exercise their right to vote under the new law.

“These longtime voters were had their voting rights violated because of SB 14 which the District Court found to be unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director of The Campaign Legal Center.  “The plight of these victims, who suffered a violation of their voting rights through no fault of their own, mirrors the evidence that prompted Judge Ramos to strike down Texas’ intentionally discriminatory, modern-day poll tax.”

The first challenge (Veasey v. Perry) to the Texas photo ID law was filed by the Campaign Legal Center and others in the summer of 2013 claiming that SB 14 violates the 1st, 14th, 15th and 24th Amendments to the Constitution, as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  Several additional challenges were then brought against the Texas law (including one by the United States).  All of the cases were consolidated in the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi.

In addition to overseeing the Voter ID Project, the Campaign Legal Center is part of the legal team representing the Veasey-LULAC plaintiffs that includes Chad Dunn and K. Scott Brazil (Brazil & Dunn), Neil G. Baron, David Richards (Richards, Rodriguez & Skeith), Armand Derfner (Derfner & Altman), and Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. (LULAC).

To read the Legal Center’s Fifth Circuit brief, click here.

To read the District Court decision striking down the Voter ID law, click here.

Tip of Millard’s old scrub brush to Michael Li.


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