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White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has argued that voting rights protections in the US are a national security issue that, if lapsed, could undermine the nation’s democratic influence abroad.
“The basic notion of democratic reform and voting rights in the United States is a national security issue,” he told reporters at the White House on Monday, ahead of President Biden’s trip to the G7 summit in England. “We are in a competition of models with autocracies. We are trying to show the world that American democracy and democracy write large can work.”
If the US cannot effectively reform voting rights to “meet the demands of the modern moment, then we’re not going to be as successful as making that case to the rest of the world,” Mr Sullivan said.
His remarks suggest that a failure in Congress to pass a critical voting rights measure backed by Joe Biden and a majority of congressional Democrats and the public could pose a risk to national security.
A “strong vibrant American democracy that protects voting rights is the best way for us to make the case to the world that our model, and not some other model, is the best,” he added.
His remarks come as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has pledged to bring to a vote to the Senate floor on the For The People Act by the end of June, despite opposition from centrist Democrat Joe Manchin and Senate Republicans jeopardising its passage.
The bill, if passed, would standardise voting access at the federal level, eliminate long-standing barriers to voting and allow candidates with smaller platforms to wield more political power.
It proposes automatic voter registration, at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections, and mail-in voting and drop boxes for absentee ballots, among a host of other proposals wrapped into the bill. It would also make it more difficult to purge voters from voter rolls and would restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people.
Democrats in the House of Representatives have passed the bill, but it has faced overwhelming resistance from congressional Republicans, as dozens of GOP-supported restrictions on voting and ballot access are proposed in nearly every state.