Sheila Jackson-Lee arrested at voting rights protests on Capitol Hill

Sheila Jackson-Lee arrested at voting rights protests on Capitol Hill
Sheila Jackson-Lee was the third Congress member to be arrested in the nonviolent protests

Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee, became the third member of Congress to be arrested in a series of nonviolent protests aimed at rallying support for federal voting legislation that activists say are needed to push back against new restrictive state laws.

“We pass the voting rights act because my people in Texas are suffering, my people in Mississippi are suffering, my people in Georgia are suffering,” Ms Jackson-Lee said, shortly before Capitol police officers prepared to arrest her and six others who blocked the entrance of the Hart Senate Office Building. “We are here to say that voting rights is a fundamental constitutional right … We will not be moved.”

Representative Hank Johnson, was arrested at Hart last week and the week before Representative Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was cuffed with zip ties and briefly detained.

The protest have been organised by the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, along with several other groups led primarily by black women, with support from other voting rights groups. Virginia Kase Solomon, CEO of the League of Women Voters, also was arrested Thursday, as was Johnnetta Cole, president of the National Council of Negro Women. Activists from Alabama and Georgia who came to Washington for the protest, also were taken into custody.

Carly Fiorina, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, joined several women leaders who spoke at a rally before the protest. She criticised a flood of laws being passed by state legislatures that voting rights advocates say will make it harder for people to vote. She noted that Republican officials including former attorney general William P. Barr to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had vouched that last year’s election was “transparent and efficient” and “that fraud did not affect the outcome.” Former president Donald Trump has falsely claimed that he lost his bid for reelection because of massive voter fraud. His campaign failed to win dozens of lawsuits and ballot recounts in his efforts to overturn the election.

“Does it make any sense that voting should be restricted to as short a time period as possible and that citizens must stand in line for hours at a time?” Ms Fiorina asked. “How can we justify that as these citizens wait to vote, they may no longer be offered a chair to sit or a bottle of water to drink?”

She was referring to measures by some states that would reduce the period for early voting and that will make it a crime to give food or water to people waiting in line to vote.

Ms Fiorina said she supported the Voting Rights Act of 1965, including a provision struck down in 2013 by the Supreme Court requiring states with a history of discriminating against minority voters to seek approval from the Justice Department before changing voting laws or procedures. She said that “Congress should require federal approval of any changes in election laws that make it harder to exercise our right to vote.”

Speaking to The Washington Post later, Ms Fiorina said she did not support eliminating the filibuster to pass the For the People Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The two bills have stalled in the Senate, split 50-50 between the parties, because it cannot clear the 60-vote threshold to avoid a filibuster and because two Democratic senators have said they do not support eliminating the procedural rule, which would allow the legislation to pass by a simple majority, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.

But the other speakers, including leaders of groups representing Asian American, Jewish and Latino voters, said voting rights was important enough for Democrats to end the filibuster.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday said they were working on a revised bill that would include some compromises put forth by Senator Joe Manchin, (D-West Virginia) who has said he wants to get some Republicans to support the voting reforms.

Washington Post