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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

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.