Ben Cardin: Disfranchisement Bill Unlikely To Pass ‘In This Congress’
1 year ago
Principal sponsor of Senate voting rights bill for ex-felons says way forward must be strategic
WASHINGTON -- Restoring federal voting rights to ex-felons – a good number of them from minority communities – isn’t a politically tough issue for Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland.
He can’t say the same for some of his Senate colleagues, whom he believes will need a bit of coaxing, before they’ll ignore what might be gained politically from passing the Democracy Restoration Act.
Cardin's Senate bill enjoys a wide-ranging coalition of support from civil rights, faith-based and law enforcement groups, whom he joined on Capitol Hill Wednesday, to push for more support in Congress.
“Voting rights are under attack -- we all know that,” said Cardin, acknowledging the recent spur in state voter suppression measures around the country. “To me, these are modern day Jim Crow laws. It should have no place in American politics.”
Cardin, to the relief of the supportive coalition, isn’t all rhetoric on the bill’s prospects. Selling a measure to increase the number of eligible voters, in an election year, isn’t exactly like dangling a bag of peanuts in front of his Republican colleagues. To his knowledge, there are no Republican co-sponsors of the bill.
Furthermore, a lot would have to change, and quickly, to increase the likelihood that the DRA makes it to President Barack Obama’s desk before the November election.
“I would be less than direct with you if I said we have a great chance of getting this passed in this Congress. We don’t,” Cardin said, during remarks at the briefing.
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The way forward has to be strategic, Cardin said. Part of that strategy includes leaning on the work of groups that support the bill and encouraging lawmakers to “put blinders on the politics of this.”
An obvious next step is to get a hearing on the bill in the Senate judiciary committee, which is chaired by Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont. His state is one of two that allows prisoners, probationers and parolees to vote.