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Top Black Democrats condemn GOP election bills as grave threat to voting in America

The highest-ranking Black lawmaker in Congress and a top Black state leader took aim Sunday at nation-wide Republican efforts to restrict voting access as a move that will suppress minority voting and imperil democracy in America.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn blasted bills aimed at restricting ballot access in all but three states as “a new Jim Crow,” while Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said Republican lawmakers are working in a “coordinated national strategy” to curb easy access to the ballot box.

“What Republicans in Michigan are doing to try to limit access to the freedom to vote and people with these proposals is disgusting and dangerous for our democracy in Michigan and across the country,” Gilchrist told CNN’s Abby Phillip on “Inside Politics” on Sunday.

The comments from top Democrats at the national- and state-levels echoed growing warnings from members of their party that the GOP drive to erect new obstacles to voting will erode core American values. The push in many Republican-led legislatures across the country follows the party’s losses in the 2020 presidential contest and some US Senate elections, including twin runoffs in Georgia in 2021.

A report from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found that 361 bills restricting voting have been introduced in 47 states as of March 24. The total, released earlier this month, marks a 43% rise in the number of bills introduced since Brennan last released a count a little over a month before.

Proposals in Michigan include requirements that voters submit IDs or only be allowed to cast provisional ballots, restrictions on the hours that voters could drop their ballots into curbside drop-boxes and a prohibition on Michigan’s secretary of state from mailing all of the state’s registered voters forms to request absentee ballots.

Gilchrist vowed Sunday that Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will veto any bills that “make it more difficult for anyone in Michigan to fully access the ballot” or bills that are against expanding voter access, allowing no-excuse absentee voting or easier online voter registration.

“If the bills do go through the legislature and they do come to our desk, they will get vetoed,” he told Phillip. “We will again use every tool at our disposal when it comes to grassroots pressure to make sure that we are blocking these bills and that may include an alternative signature gathering process to protect our rights.”

President Joe Biden has called on Congress to pass voting rights legislation that would counter restrictions Republicans are trying to push through at the state level across the country. Georgia became the first presidential battleground to impose new voting restrictions following Biden’s victory in the state.

“Recount after recount and court case after court case upheld the integrity and outcome of a clearly free, fair, and secure democratic process,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House last month, referring to the 2020 election in which he became the first Democratic presidential candidate in nearly three decades to win Georgia.

The bill, which Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law last month, imposes new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water.

Clyburn, asked Sunday by CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” if he sees Georgia’s new sweeping election law as a new Jim Crow, said, “No question about it.”

“These thoughts are being expressed in other states as well and they know full well these are ways to suppress voters, to keep people from exercising their rights,” he said.

The South Carolina Democrat urged people to look to history to understand the gravity of the Georgia legislation.

“The whole history in the South of putting together those who are eligible to vote is based upon the practices and the experiences of people based upon their race. So, I would say to anybody, come on, just look at the history. And it’s there,” he said, adding, “What’s on anybody’s mind when you say, OK, we are going to deny voting places, we’re going to get rid of drop boxes? We know we’re going to create long lines. So, now let’s make it a crime if you bring someone a bottle of water while they’re standing in those long lines? It’s not what they intend. It’s what the result is.”

“So, they can say anything they want to say about it. Just look through it and look throughout history, and you will know that what is taking place today is a new Jim Crow, just that simple.”

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