Ramp it up: It's time for Biden and all of us to mobilize like MLK to save voting rights.

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  • Joe Biden
    Joe Biden
    46th and current president of the United States

President Joe Biden is right to call on Americans to fight voter suppression efforts by many Republican state legislators and other elected officials around the country, but he and all Americans who believe in democracy must do more. These dangerous Republican moves to take away voting rights threaten our democracy and the rights and freedom of every American, and must be met with a new national voting rights campaign like the one Dr. Martin Luther King led in the 1960s.

While claiming to stand for “election integrity” and to oppose “election fraud,” many Republican elected officials are doing everything in their power to do what they falsely accuse Democrats of doing — rig elections to prevent the American people from freely and fairly electing our government leaders and representatives. Not content to attack Democrats, these Republicans want to destroy democracy.

'Most dangerous threat to voting'

The nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab found that states have enacted at least 35 laws restricting access to voting this year, affecting mail-in voting, in-person voting, voter ID, voter registration and other voting practices. Nearly all the support for these laws comes from Republicans.

Most alarming is the effort by Republicans in some states to allow legislatures, their appointees, or other state officials to overturn election results by claiming fraud and declaring the loser of a race the winner. If this succeeds, our elections will be as meaningless as those in North Korea, Russia, China and Iran. Election outcomes will be decided by those in power, not the people.

"It’s no longer just about who gets to vote or making it easier for eligible voters to vote. It’s about who gets to count the vote, who gets to count whether or not your vote counted at all," Biden said Tuesday in Philadelphia. "It’s about moving from independent election administrators who worked for the people, to polarized state legislatures and partisan actors who work for political parties. To me, this is simple, this is election subversion. It’s the most dangerous threat to voting … in our history."

President Joe Biden after speaking about voting rights at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on July 13, 2021.
President Joe Biden after speaking about voting rights at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on July 13, 2021.

Many of the voting restrictions championed by Republicans disproportionately impact voter turnout by Black and Hispanic voters, who usually vote heavily Democratic. This isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. It is the precise purpose the voting restrictions are being advanced.

Following the example of Dr. King, everyone who believes in voting rights needs to mobilize for nonviolent marches and demonstrations around the country to make it clear that Republican voter suppression, which President Biden has correctly likened to racist Jim Crow laws, is intolerable. We need to contact our own members of Congress to make clear that voting rights must be protected.

Never-Trump GOP: It's crazy that we have to launch Republicans for Voting Rights. This is Trump's doing.

Defeated former President Donald Trump is inspiring and cheering on the un-American effort to undermine voting rights by continuing to spread his Big Lie that he won the 2020 presidential election against Biden. Before this year, no major party presidential candidate in American history who lost an election refused to bow to the will of voters and concede. But Trump told a cheering crowd at his Jan. 6 rally, before urging supporters to march to the Capitol: “We will never give up, we will never concede.”

Biden should push for voting exception

Democratic lawmakers in the Texas House executed a mass departure from the state Monday and came to Washington in order to deprive the Republican-controlled state legislature of the quorum necessary to pass voter suppression legislation. They want Democrats in Washington to pass a pair of bills that would block many of the state-level Republican suppression bills and laws.

Texas House Democrats at a news conference on voting rights outside the U.S. Capitol on July 13, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
Texas House Democrats at a news conference on voting rights outside the U.S. Capitol on July 13, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. House has passed the bills, the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and they are essential to preserve our democracy. Both would become law if a Senate majority could pass them. The chamber is divided 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker.

Suffrage, civil rights and more:Yes, MLB moved the All-Star Game. But history shows it can do lots more for voting rights.

However, under the Senate’s filibuster rule, a supermajority of 60 votes is needed to pass most legislation. And Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are staunch defenders of the filibuster, saying it promotes bipartisan compromise.

In reality, it will be impossible to get 10 Republican senators to support the two voting rights bills. Their only hope is if Democrats can convince Manchin and Sinema to create a “carve-out” to allow voting rights bills to pass with a simple majority in the Senate. President Biden should join with fellow Democrats to urge Manchin and Sinema to agree to this needed exemption in order to prevent Republicans from rigging future elections in their favor.

Many Republicans claim to love America and democracy, grow incensed when athletes protest the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” proudly call themselves “patriots,” and wear American flag lapel pins. But if they support voter suppression and oppose laws to prevent it they are stabbing American democracy in the heart. And they are ignoring the sacrifice of generations of our citizens who fought to honor the pledge of President Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Donna Brazile (@donnabrazile) is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, an ABC News contributor, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and the King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University. She previously served as interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute, and managed the Gore campaign in 2000.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden must lead new voting rights drive, push for filibuster exception

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