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Emily’s List and NARAL vow to only back candidates who support passage of voting rights legislation

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 1/19/2022 Shannon Larson
Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), left, and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), center, departed a Democratic policy luncheon at the Capitol in Washington on Nov. 16. © AL DRAGO Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), left, and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), center, departed a Democratic policy luncheon at the Capitol in Washington on Nov. 16.

Two nationwide organizations that seek to preserve and advocate for abortion rights on Tuesday turned up the heat on politicians by pledging to only back candidates who support passing voting rights legislation, with an eye cast on one Senate Democrat in particular.

EMILY’s List, a group founded to elect Democratic pro-choice women, directly called out Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona for her refusal to back changes to Senate filibuster rules, which would be needed to pass voting reforms. NARAL, a group that fights for reproductive freedom, followed up a couple of hours later with a similar promise but did not specifically mention any elected official.

The statements from both organizations arrived as the Senate debates the “Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act,” which would establish online and automatic same-day voter registration and make Election Day a national holiday, among other measures. No Senate Republican is in favor of the legislation, meaning the legislation cannot pass without a change to Senate rules that require 60 votes to end a filibuster.

“We are at an inflection point in the fight for voting rights and reproductive freedom, and Democrats must stand together to protect those critical rights,” EMILY’s List President Laphonza Butler said in a statement. She added that without “free and fair elections,” it is not possible to elect “Democratic pro-choice women.”

The group has not endorsed or contributed to Sinema since her election in 2018, Butler said, adding that EMILY’s List has joined “with many others” in urging the senator to acknowledge “the importance of the pending voting rights legislation.”

“So far those concerns have not been addressed,” Butler said. “So, we want to make it clear: if Sen. Sinema can not support a path forward for the passage of this legislation, we believe she undermines the foundations of our democracy, her own path to victory and also the mission of EMILY’s List, and we will be unable to endorse her moving forward.”

In the past year, Republican-led state legislatures nationwide have enacted laws that make voting more difficult, particularly for disenfranchised communities. Efforts to tighten voter identification requirements and restrict early voting and voting by mail have followed the baseless lies peddled by former President Donald Trump that the 2020 election — regarded as one of the most secure in history — was stolen.


Video: Senate Democrats push forward on voting rights legislation, but don't have the votes (CBS News)

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Sinema reiterated her opposition to eliminating the filibuster — which allows for a minority of senators to block legislation — in a speech on the Senate floor last week. Her announcement, combined with statements from Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia also refusing to back changes to the filibuster, have all but killed the efforts of the White House and Democrats to push through the voting rights legislation.

“We will not endorse or support any senator who refuses to find a path forward on this critical legislation,” NARAL Pro-Choice American President Mini Timmaraju said in a statement. “Without ensuring that voters have the freedom to participate in safe and accessible elections, a minority with a regressive agenda and a hostility to reproductive freedom will continue to block the will of the majority of Americans.”

Sinema reaffirmed her stance in a statement shared with media outlets Tuesday night.

“While the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to end debate on legislation has been used repeatedly to protect against wild swings in federal policy, including in the area of protecting women’s health care, I said on the Senate floor last week that different people of good faith can have honest disagreements about policy and strategy,” Sinema said.

She added that such “honest disagreements are normal” but that she was not relenting in her views on weakening the filibuster to pass the legislation.

“I respect those who have reached different conclusions on how to achieve our shared goals of addressing voter suppression and election subversion, and making the Senate work better for everyday Americans,” Sinema said.

The debates over voting legislation reform have intensified even beyond Washington. In Colorado, state Democrats sought to pass a resolution urging Congress to adopt the voting rights legislation, only to be faced with a slew of amendments from Republicans calling the results of the 2020 election into question and thanking a lawmaker who attended the Jan. 6 rally, according to the Denver Post.

All the amendments proposed by Colorado Republicans were “easily” shot down by their Democratic counterparts, who were able to pass “the resolution on strict party lines,” the Post reported. Only one Republican voted no on the measure, while all Democrats voted in favor of passing it.

“In Colorado, we cannot remain silent! Did you see those amendments? The choice is clear! The choice is clear, between the two groups of elected representatives in this building today,” Colorado House Speaker Alec Garnett, a Denver Democrat, said from the House lectern after the amendments were defeated, the Post reported.

“Holy moly. We cannot remain silent. We cannot remain silent,” he continued. “Colorado, America, listen up! This is serious. You are under threat. Your ability to vote is under threat.”

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