Democracy ‘definitely dinged,’ UTSA political scientist says

Jon Taylor predicts restrictions may complicate future of voting rights

 'For the People' voting rights act shot down in U.S Senate
'For the People' voting rights act shot down in U.S Senate

SAN ANTONIO – The nation’s largest overhaul of its electoral system in a generation, known as the For the People Act, went down in defeat Tuesday in the U.S. Senate.

The vote was split along party lines, with Democrats unable to overcome Republican opposition, to get the 60 votes needed in order to bring it up for debate.

The bill’s defeat was no surprise to Jon Taylor, Ph.D., chair of the UTSA department of political science and geography.

Although Taylor said he believes democracy is not in jeopardy, “It’s definitely been dinged.”

Taylor said Americans aren’t going to lose their voting rights, “However, at the same time, be concerned that there may be serious limitations on how you can actually vote.”

He said Texas is the latest example of a growing movement to enact voting restrictions in at least 14 states so far.

The effort in Texas that failed after last month’s walk-out by Democratic lawmakers will be likely be revived in the upcoming special session July 8.

Taylor said the nation is somewhere between believing democracy is in peril and those who see the For the People Act, and the still pending John Lewis Voting Rights Act, as “a power grab.”

“It’s probably somewhere in the middle as is typical of politics in our country,” Taylor said. “Both parties want to find an advantage.”

Taylor said elections are state-run, but under the Voting Rights of 1965, states where segregation prevailed, including Texas, were required to get federal approval or “pre-clearance” before making any changes in the election law.

But Taylor said Title 5 of the Voting Rights Act was overturned in 2013 by the U.S. Supreme Court after it was decided pre-clearance was no longer needed.

“The argument being that it’s been 40, 50 years, the vestiges of discrimination are over, the vestiges of Jim Crow are over,” Taylor said.

He said the result opened the door for individual states to enact their own voting restrictions that will likely be challenged in court.

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Bill Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.