Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford joined with three other Democratic attorneys general Wednesday to urge the U.S. Senate to pass a major voting rights measure, S.R. 1, the For the People Act.
Ford joined the Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in a press call Wednesday emphasizing Congresses’ Constitutional role to set national standards to protect the right to vote for all Americans, calling the legislation vital to combating a wave of restrictive voting proposals around the country.
“The Constitution specifically provides for constitutional authority to protect access to the ballot and prohibit any discrimination over the right to vote,” said Tiffany Muller, president of the End Citizens United and Let America Vote Action Fund, who joined the call. “The Senate needs to get this done. It is must-pass, critical legislation.”
Democrats argue the legislation is necessary after Republican state legislators in 47 states have introduced or passed more than 360 bills that have been widely condemned as deliberately designed to restrict voter access, including strict voter I.D. laws and limits on early and mail-in voting.
The bill would also reform public campaign financing and ethics laws, and seeks to strengthen voting rights by creating automatic voter registration and expanding access to early and absentee voting. It also includes some measures that would limit states’ ability to remove people from voter rolls, increase federal funds for election security, and reform the redistricting process.
Republicans, however, are expected to filibuster the bill if it’s brought to the Senate floor for a vote, meaning Democrats who only hold a 50-seat majority would not have the 60 votes needed to pass the bill.
“We saw outright attacks on our elections,” Ford said. “And it didn’t just begin when our former president stood on the debate stage and told people to go to the polls and watch closely.”
The For the People Act addresses attempts to place barriers on voting, said Ford. He emphasized the need for the bill by highlighting how Florida’s citizen-led ballot initiative allowing Floridians with felony criminal records to vote was severly restricted by the state’s Republican lawmakers and governor.
“They want to make it hard to vote. And if they can’t stop you from voting…they want to stop your vote from counting. And if they can’t stop your vote from counting then…they try to throw out your vote and undermine the electoral process in other ways,” Ford said.
Ford praised the legislature in Nevada Legislature for expanding access to mail-in voting for the 2020 election, a move Trump ridiculed and unsuccessfully attempted to overturn in court.
“I’m happy to say here in Nevada the things we see happening in Georgia and in Texas and in Iowa and elsewhere aren’t happening here, but we can’t get complacent,” Ford said.
Ford’s office was involved in six lawsuits related to the election brought by Trump and the Republican party. Ford characterized the suits as “pure garbage.”
“We were able to defeat every single one of them,” Ford said. “Again, it’s because they can’t come up with good reasons to stop people from being able to vote.”
Nevada was briefly thrown into the national spotlight last year after Trump’s re-election campaign and the national Republican Party sued Nevada to block the state’s decision to send a mail-in ballot to every registered voter.
Ford said that while voter fraud does occur in “a very limited circumstance,” including a case he prosecuted after the 2016 election, he called the notion of widespread voter fraud “nonsense.”
Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s attorney general, applauded a “handful of judges and attorneys general, secretaries of state and governors who stood between the rule of law and the big lie” during the presidential election. The state of Pennsylvania was sued 19 times before any votes were cast and 21 more times after the polls closed, said Shapiro, adding that every lawsuit was defeated by his office. Shapiro said only three cases of voter fraud were found in the state, all of which were prosecuted.
“In state houses all across the country, especially here in Pennsylvania, there are real and serious efforts to restrict the vote to make it harder for communities of color to be heard,” Shapiro said. “These attacks on our democracy will not stop unless the Senate takes action.”
Minnesota’s Ellison called S.R.1 “a critical piece of legislation.” Ellison credited Minnesota’s high voter turnout to legislation allowing same day voter registration and other measures to increase voter access and participation.
“High voter turnout is not just a matter of civic interest, it’s a matter of the rules, and this bill (the For the People Act) would create rules that would allow the United States to have the kind of voting that Minnesota experiences,” said Ellison.
“Let’s continue to put the pressure on our senators to pass this bill,” Ford said. “They can’t stop you from voting. Iif we continue to push back we can protect that right to vote.”