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Analysis

Sen. Warnock Calls Out ‘Jim Crow in New Clothes’

The Senate is considering the For the People Act, which can thwart current the assault on voting rights.

March 23, 2021
Warnock
C-SPAN

Last week’s murders in Atlanta again reminded us of the destructive power of racism in America. What happened there was not random or the product of the gunman’s “bad day.” It flowed directly from anti-Asian hate and the misogyny that so often comes with it. And after such a difficult year for the AAPI community, its implications are all the more painful.

At moments like these, we must remind ourselves that the struggles for racial justice and democracy are inextricably bound. At the Brennan Center, we will continue to work for an inclusive, multiracial democracy where every voice is heard. In Congress, that fight continues with the For the People Act.

Last Wednesday, the For the People Act was introduced in the Senate. It’s significant that this bill bears the number S. 1 and has the strong support of Senate leaders — especially because it’s been nearly two decades since a significant democracy reform bill has been debated in the upper chamber.

In his first speech on the Senate floor, Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) made powerful remarks in support of the bill. He connected the bill to his historic election, where turnout was double than that of a typical runoff and Georgia sent its first Jewish and Black senators to Washington. In response, legislators in his home state are trying to game the system. 

“We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we’ve seen since the Jim Crow era. This is Jim Crow in new clothes,” he said. “Since the January election, some 250 voter suppression bills have been introduced all across the country.” 

In response to this assault on voting rights, Warnock argued that his colleagues have to pass S. 1. “The For the People Act is a major step in the march towards our democratic ideals by making it easier, not harder, for eligible Americans to vote by instituting common sense, pro-democracy reforms,” he went on to say. Those pro-democracy reforms — such as nationwide early voting and automatic voter registration, a ban on partisan gerrymandering, and small donor public financing — would transform our democracy and bring in the voices that have been drowned out.

Now that S. 1 has been introduced, the Senate must move quickly. The bill can thwart the assault on voting rights and the serious risk of partisan gerrymandering we’re facing in the upcoming redistricting cycle. These are dangerous threats to democracy. As Warnock went on to say, the important reforms S. 1 promises are too important to be held hostage by the Senate’s archaic filibuster rule.

“The four most powerful words in a democracy are ‘the people have spoken.’” Warnock said. “Therefore, we must ensure that all of the people can speak.” The For the People Act achieves that — and more.