Pelosi reiterates push for new federal voting rights legislation as states pass restrictive laws

The speaker of the House said Republican efforts to restrict voting access is an assault on democracy.

Marguerite Reardon
Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gestures as she speaks at her weekly news conference at the Capitol building on August 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. She spoke at an online conference on Monday urging Congress to pass voting rights legislation. 

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi exhorted Congress to pass new voting rights legislation as soon as possible, a call that comes amid a growing debate over new state level laws that govern access to the ballot box. 

"This isn't about Democrats or Republicans," Pelosi said during an appearance Monday at the 19th News's Virtual Summit. "This is about our democracy."

Pelosi's comments come as attention to voting laws rises amid a raft of new bills across the country. As of July, Republican state lawmakers have introduced more than 400 bills with restrictive voting provisions across 49 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Eighteen GOP-led states have passed a total of 30 laws that tighten access to voting by making mail voting and early voting more difficult, imposing harsher voter ID requirements, and making faulty voter purges more likely, among other things. 

President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats have repeatedly criticized the new laws, which have popped up in the wake of former President Donald Trump's unfounded allegations that the 2020 presidential election was "stolen." In March, the Democrat-led House passed the For the People Act of 2021, which would reverse the voting rights restrictions pushed by Republican-controlled state legislatures this year. The bill was blocked by Senate Republicans in June.

Pelosi said the House hasn't given up on the For the People Act. She added that Democrats are also preparing a revised version of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would update parts of the original Voting Rights Act passed in 1965 requiring states with histories of racial voting discrimination to get approval by the Justice Department before changing voting laws. The proposed law is named after the late Georgia representative and voting rights champion. 

"If we don't make this right," Pelosi told the online conference, "I don't see how we ever fairly elect a president."

Pelosi acknowledged that any House voting rights legislation would face a stiff challenge in the Senate, where it would need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.