January 19, 2022

Durbin: To Restore the Power of the Voting Rights Act is to Restore the Promise of America

Hours before historic vote on voting rights, Durbin calls on his Republican colleagues to join Senate Democrats and support the right to vote

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today called on his Republican colleagues to support critical voting rights legislation that will come before the Senate tonight.  The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act combines the bipartisan John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.  In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin also discussed the continued threat to our democracy posed by Donald Trump’s “Big Lie.”  

“Approximately 155 million Americans voted in the 2020 election, the highest voter turnout percentage since the 1900 election.  A record number voted early or cast mail-in ballots, options that were expanded in red and blue states in response to the deadly pandemic… Despite the crush of voters and the confusion of the pandemic, the 2020 election was judged the most secure in American history.  That’s not my opinion, that’s the official statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security [Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency] under the Trump Administration,” Durbin said.  “They released their assessment ten days after the 2020 election, and they did so to counter a dangerous and unprecedented avalanche of misinformation, including from an enraged and defeated President claiming falsely the election had been stolen.”

Durbin continued, “The ‘Big Lie’ is corroding America’s faith in our elections.  In a recent poll, two-thirds of Republicans surveyed agreed with the false claim that, ‘voter fraud helped Joe Biden win the 2020 election.’  Two-thirds of Republicans.  That poll also found 64 percent of Americans believe U.S. democracy is, ‘in crisis and at the risk of failing.’… So now Republican lawmakers are using the ‘Big Lie’ to pass partisan election laws in order to reduce voter turnout and control outcomes of the elections this year and in 2024.  Their target?  Democratic voters.  And their goal?  Sow the seeds of doubt in our democracy and the credibility of future elections.  Republicans refuse to join us in protecting voting rights.  Why?  Because the agenda they are following was set by Donald Trump.  And dissenters pay a price.”

Durbin also rebutted Republicans’ arguments for refusing to support Senate Democrats’ measures to protect the voting rights of Americans.

“They [Senate Republicans] claim that our proposals to restore the Voting Rights Act and set minimum federal standards for elections amount to an ‘unprecedented takeover of state elections’ and a ‘partisan power grab.’  They are wrong,” Durbin said.  “The Elections Clause of the Constitution, Article 1, Section 4, gives Congress the authority to make election laws.  The 14th and 15th Amendments give Congress the responsibility to protect voting by appropriate legislation.  The Voting Rights Act was reauthorized and strengthened five time—always with a strong bipartisan majority.”

During his speech, Durbin argued that if Republicans continue to filibuster voting rights legislation, Senate Democrats must be prepared to support changes to the Senate rules in order to protect Americans’ right to vote. 

“I’m the person chosen by Senate Democrats to count votes.  And based on their public statements, two Democrats may not vote to change the rules to allow this Congress to stop this power grab,” Durbin said.  “These Senators have given their reasons.  There’s something more important than an existing Senate rule, a rule that has been changed 160 times in the history of this body.  The integrity of our free elections, the right to have your vote counted, and our oath to uphold and defend the Constitution I believe count for more.”

Durbin concluded, “It’s time to tell the voters the truth.  Stop repeating the ‘Big Lie’ that’s tearing this country apart.  It’s time for the Senate to pass the [John R. Lewis] Voting Rights [Advancement] Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.  To restore the power of the Voting Rights Act is to restore the promise of America.”

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.

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