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North Dakota's congressional delegation opposes Democratic voting rights package

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed the "Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act" on Thursday along party lines. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., and Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., voted against the bill, which faces a much harder path in the gridlocked Senate.

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North Dakota's all-Republican Congressional delegation is pictured, from left: Sen. Kevin Cramer, Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kelly Armstrong.

BISMARCK — North Dakota's all-Republican congressional delegation has rejected Democrat-backed voting rights legislation that aims to standardize the nation's election laws and expand voting access.

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed the "Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act" on Thursday, Jan. 13, along party lines. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., and Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., voted against the bill, which is expected to face a much tougher test in the gridlocked Senate.

The 735-page bill contains a number of sweeping changes, including:

  • Requiring states to allow 15 days of early voting.
  • Obligating states that require voter identification to accept a broad range of IDs.
  • Restoring voting rights to ex-felons.
  • Making Election Day a federal holiday.
  • Reintroducing requirements for states with histories of voter discrimination to seek federal approval before altering voting rules.
  • Barring partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts.
  • Allowing House candidates to draw on federal money for campaigns.

Democratic lawmakers and President Joe Biden said the measures are necessary to protect free and fair elections in Republican-led states, like Florida, Georgia and Texas, that have restricted voting access in the wake of the 2020 Presidential election and former President Donald Trump's false claims of mass voter fraud.
Democrats argue the voting restrictions passed in more than a dozen states last year would disproportionately prevent people of color from casting ballots.

Congressional Republicans, who are unified against the legislation, say it would obstruct states from running their own elections and consolidate too much power over the electoral process in Washington.

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Armstrong told Forum News Service one-size-fits-all election rules would be unmanageable, noting what works in Philadelphia might not work in Mandan. The second-term representative said North Dakota conducts some of the safest and most open elections in the country, and the additional federal oversight proposed by Democrats would only hinder the process.

"The Democrats' overreach will only serve to consolidate power in politicians' hands and further erode confidence in our electoral process,” Armstrong said in a news release.

U.S. Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer also came out against the voting rights package, which the evenly split Senate will likely consider this week. Republicans in the upper chamber blocked two bills last year that were later combined into the current legislation.

Cramer said a "fake crisis" lies at the heart of the Democratic push for voting rights legislation, noting the 2020 election had some of the highest turnout among people of color in history. Significant disparities in turnout between white citizens and non-white citizens persisted in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau .

"Recent elections have demonstrated that self-governance is working very well in the United States," Cramer said in a news release. "Let’s not forget, states are in charge of their own elections as per our great tradition of self-governance."

Hoeven said he opposes the legislation because he doesn't think "North Dakotans want the federal government to determine how we conduct our elections.”

Even though all 50 Democratic senators support the bill, Republicans appear poised to filibuster the package, which means it would need 60 votes to pass. Biden has pushed for Democratic senators to do away with the filibuster rule so the bill could pass without any Republican support, but two members of his own party have so far rejected that tactic, according to The New York Times.

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