U.S. Senate sets Wednesday procedural vote on election reform bill

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate Democrats hold weekly policy lunch at U.S. Capitol in Washington
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  • Chuck Schumer
    Chuck Schumer
    American politician
  • John Lewis
    John Lewis
    American politician

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate will vote on Wednesday on whether to begin debate on legislation that would restore state voting requirements that were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, the top Senate Democrat said on Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would set up the procedural vote for a bill known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which Republicans are expected to block from consideration.

The bill, named for the late civil rights leader and longtime congressman John Lewis, would require certain states and counties to get federal approval before they can redraw voting districts.

Republicans have already blocked multiple attempts by Schumer to advance broader election reform bills that would make it easier for Americans to vote by mail and cast early in-person ballots.

Schumer said the Senate must act soon in response to restrictive election laws passed by Republican-led states.

"Time is really getting short for the Senate to take action on voting rights," Schumer said in remarks that could foreshadow a move by Democrats to address the Senate's 60-vote threshold known as the filibuster, which empowers Republicans to stand in the way of legislation.

"It is essential that we restore pre-clearance protections before the start of next year, when states are set to consider another round of restrictive voting rights laws," Schumer said.

Next year also brings November elections for one-third of the Senate's 100 seats and all 435 House of Representatives seats. Both chambers are narrowly controlled by Democrats.

Republicans argue that the federal government should not meddle in state-run election activities.

But at least one Republican lawmaker, Senator Lisa Murkowski, said she would vote to begin debate on the measure on Wednesday.

Democrats have tried to override restrictive laws passed this year in a number of states with Republican-controlled legislatures and governors. Those measures, plus others in the pipeline, are part of a Republican narrative that the 2020 presidential election was rife with voter fraud, as former President Donald Trump has falsely claimed since last year.

Various court decisions and Trump's own Justice Department found no substantial voting irregularities to put President Joe Biden's victory in question.

Many Democrats are pressing Schumer to alter or scrap the Senate's filibuster rule to allow voting rights legislation to advance on a simple majority vote that Democrats could more easily win.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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