During a CNN Town Hall Thursday, President Joe Biden gave his strongest support yet to changing the filibuster rule in the Senate, which Republicans had just used to block a major voting rights bill.
Voting rights activist Stacey Abrams told Boston Public Radio Friday the president's statements signal his "stalwart commitment" to voting rights.
On voting rights
Earlier this fall, Abrams endorsed a compromise version of the Freedom to Vote Act that would establish election day as a national holiday, and require some forms of voter identification, to win the backing of centrist Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin.
Abrams said Manchin had tried to garner support from Republicans in order to get the 60 votes needed to move the bill forward in the Senate.
It had full Democratic support when Republicans filibustered it Wednesday, with no Republican voting to allow it to move forward.
"Unfortunately, it didn't work," Abrams said.
Voter identification has been a wedge issue, with conservatives and moderate Democrats in favor of requiring some form of identification to vote, and progressives railing against it.
Abrams said the baseline in America is to require some proof that "you are who you say you are," but that Republicans have weaponized that standard to require restrictive types of identification that some people are unable to secure.
Abrams said the two bills — the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — would set national standard for elections. In doing so, she said the bills also bolster the election system.
"What these bills do will not only protect the right of voters, it'll also protect against election subversion, so Donald Trump can say what he wants much as he did in the 2020 election, and his allies. But what they weren't able to do was subvert our democracy as they will, because the laws said no," she said.
"Unfortunately these 38 bills that have passed across these 19 stateschange that, and allow the subversion of democracy which is again why the Freedom to Vote Act is so essential. Regardless of what you believe, we should never allow our institutions to become weapons for our politicians."
On the filibuster
Abrams has pushed for a carve-out of the filibuster in order to pass voting rights legislation.
She told Boston Public Radio she understands some Senators' hesitance to change long-held rules, but the Insurrection on January 6, and the Republican lack of response, represented a fundamental change to the institution.
"There remains this optimism that the institution of the Senate is what it was, and the people in the Senate are answering to constituents who truly want the best for our democracy, and that's just not true," she said. "There's naivety that thinks we're all in this together still, and unfortunately we are not."
Stacey Abrams is a voting rights activist, former Georgia State Representative, founder of the political action committee Fair Fight and author. She is speaking at the Chevalier Theatre in Medford on Monday, October 25.