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Senate Dems Introduce Sweeping Election Reform Bill Facing Steep Odds

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The U.S. Senate Democrats on Wednesday introduced a broad electoral reform bill, a top priority for the party that cleared the House of Representatives earlier this month but faced steep possibilities in the upper chamber.

Like the House version, the Senate’s For the People Act would update voting procedures and require states to return to the task of re-adding congressional districts to independent commissions.

Democratic President Joe Biden said he would sign the bill into law if it passes Congress, but it faces Republican opposition in the 50-50 Senate, where most measures require 60 votes to pass.

The stakes are high for Democratic congressmen. After the completion of the census, the decennial count of the population, states will be given the task of reproducing congressional district maps to be used in the next decade.

Historically, both parties have used those maps to strengthen the votes of their supporters and reduce the other parties. Gerrymandering was also used to dilute the political power of Black voters.

This year, Republicans will have the sole power to draw the lines for 181 congressional seats, compared to 49 for Democrats.

The Republican is also seeking an assassination of laws in 43 states that would place new voting restrictions, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, following Republican Donald Trump’s repeated false statement that his defeat in the presidential election is the result of widespread fraud.

“If you don’t think it’s an issue this year, you’ve slept through the whole last year,” Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said at a conference.

The introduction of the bill came amid a long battle against the Senate filibuster, which required a supermajority of 60 votes to pass the law. Activists and some Democrats pushed to get rid of it, but a number of Senate Democrats, including moderate Democratic senator Joe Manchin, said they were committed to safeguarding it.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell has vowed “a burned Senate” if Democrats scrap it.

Senator Raphael Warnock, one of two Georgia Democrats who helped his party win narrow control of the Senate in a couple of elections in the January runoff, called on the chamber to pass the electoral reform bill.

“The voices of the American people are increasingly drowned out and compressed and constrained from their own democracy,” Warnock said. “We must pass ‘For the People’ so that people have a voice.”

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

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