Washington: President Joe Biden says the United States is facing the biggest threat to fair elections in its history because of a wave of Republican-led efforts across the country to make it harder for Americans to vote.
Biden delivered an impassioned speech on voting rights just hours after Democratic legislators from Texas fled their state in a dramatic attempt to block Republicans from tightening voting laws.
President Joe Biden delivers an impassioned speech on voting rights at the National Constitution Centre in Philadelphia. Credit:AP
Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives voted on Wednesday (AEDT) to send law enforcement officers to the US Capitol to find and return the absent legislators “under warrant of arrest, if necessary”.
Republican-controlled states such as Georgia, Texas and Florida have proposed or passed laws designed to tighten voting rules, including limiting access to postal ballots which proved popular in the 2020 presidential election.
“This is election subversion,” Biden said in a speech at the National Constitution Centre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“It’s the most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history.”
Biden said current efforts to change voting rights laws were especially “pernicious” because some target not just access to the ballot but also attempt to take power away from independent elections officials and make it easier for politicians to override the will of voters in their state.
State Representative Chris Turner, chairman of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, and Democratic members of the Texas legislature hold a news conference at the Capitol in Washington.Credit:AP
Although Biden did not refer to Donald Trump by name he made clear he held his predecessor responsible for undermining the legitimacy of America’s electoral system by falsely claiming that last year’s election was “rigged” and marred by widespread fraud.
“Peddlers of lies are threatening the very foundation of our country,” Biden said.
“No election has ever been held under such scrutiny and high standards. The Big Lie is just that: the Big Lie.“
The world is watching: US President Joe Biden slams Republican efforts to restrict voting rights.Credit:AP
Biden continued: “In America, if you lose, you accept the results. You follow the Constitution. You try again. You don’t call facts ‘fake’ and try to bring down the American experiment just because you’re unhappy.”
Biden said the “unprecedented wave of voter suppression” being proposed by Republican state legislators across the country was “simply unconscionable”.
“There is an unfolding assault taking place in America today,” he said. “An assault on democracy, an assault on liberty, an assault on who we are as Americans.”
America now faces the “most significant test of democracy since the Civil War”, Biden said.
“The world is watching,” he added.
Referring to past laws that restricted the rights of African Americans to vote, Biden said: “The 21st Century Jim Crow assault is real. It’s unrelenting. We’re going to challenge it vigorously.”
But Biden disappointed progressive activists by declining to call for the US Senate to scrap its “filibuster” rule that establishes a 60-vote threshold for most legislation, including voting rights bills.
Democrats in the US Congress have proposed sweeping legislation to overhaul the nation’s voting rules, but have no hope of reaching the required 60-vote threshold to pass their bill through the evenly-divided Senate.
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