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Arizona state lawmakers in DC lobby for voting rights legislation, end of filibuster

By: - August 6, 2021 9:34 am

Photo by Martin Falbisoner | Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Nine Arizona Democratic lawmakers traveled to the nation’s capital this week to lobby members of Congress to pass voting and election reform legislation and end the Senate filibuster, which has prevented important reforms to Democrats from passing with a simple majority.  

The state lawmakers, who recently ended a legislative session that saw a record number of Republican-backed proposals to restrict voting, are bringing those experiences to push U.S. Senators to take meaningful steps to pass the For The People Act. 

The proposal has cleared the U.S. House of Representatives and would implement wide-ranging election reforms like automatic voter registration, increase campaign finance transparency and require independent redistricting panels in all states. But it has stalled in the Senate because of Republican opposition and the filibuster, which requires 60 senators to agree to let any measure receive a formal vote. That means the 50 Democrats must win the support of 10 Republicans.

State Sens. Martin Quezada of Glendale and Sally-Ann Gonzales of Tucson joined Reps. Andres Cano, Cesar Chavez, Diego Espinoza, Alma Hernandez, Daniel Hernandez, Lorenzo Sierra, and Stephanie Stahl Hamilton in traveling to DC. 

Their trip was paid for by a coalition of organizations that include the Declaration for American Democracy and Center for American Progress Action Fund, a left-leaning research and advocacy group. 

Quezada took part at a vigil on Wednesday night outside the entrance to the Senate. 

Quezada was among the 39 people arrested last week in Phoenix outside the office of U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema after staging a sit-in. Civil rights icon Rev. Jesse Jackson led a march to Sinema’s office in central Phoenix and was also arrested. 

“It was an experience of a lifetime,” Quezada said of the march and arrest alongside Jackson. “I never thought I’d have an opportunity to engage in an act of civil disobedience with someone like Reverand Jackson, who is one of the biggest civil rights leaders in history. I felt like it was important enough — I was risking arrest, but I thought it was worth the risk to send a message to Senator Sinema that we need her to act.”

Sinema opposes doing away with the filibuster. Despite campaigns, letters and protests to pressure her, Sinema hasn’t budged. She says the filibuster is needed to force bipartisan compromise.

This week in D.C., Quezada said he and other lawmakers met with staff of Sen. Mark Kelly, who has been publicly vague about his position on the filibuster but in a private talk with donors backed changing the filibuster. Quezada said lawmakers shared their experiences on what Republican state legislators wanted to pass this year related to elections and voting.  

This year’s legislative session in Arizona saw a record number of proposals to restrict voting and to change the way people vote, many inspired by the baseless election fraud claims and conspiracy theories that former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters have spread falsely claiming that the 2020 general election was rigged.

While just a fraction of those were considered, Republican legislators and Gov. Doug Ducey enacted several changes, including purging the Permanent Early Voting List and last-minute policy changes added to budget bills like mandating expensive anti-counterfeiting measures.

The state lawmakers also participated in an event called “Recess Can’t Wait” to pressure Congress to pass the For The People Act before it goes on its scheduled August recess. 

Pima County Recorder Gabriela Cázares-Kelly was also in D.C. to pressure senators to pass the For The People Act. 

The Washington Post reported Thursday that a vote on the election legislation could happen in the coming days.

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Laura Gómez
Laura Gómez

Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for education, immigration, political, and public safety reporting and Spanish-language news and feature reporting. Laura worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.