Voting rights have been in the headlines over the past few weeks because of legislation being pushed by Democrats in Congress.

The Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act honor the late Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, and seek to ensure that young people and communities of color have the same opportunities to vote as everyone else. 

The new bill, which combines both acts, is titled, “Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.” While the bill is over 700 pages, there are some key points that help empower communities of color, such as making it easier to register to vote, making it easier to vote by mail, expanding early voting, and allowing voters to use a wide range of identification.

The bill would also seek to restrict dark money used in campaign financing and partisan gerrymandering, a practice where lawmakers draw district boundaries to help their party win future elections. This practice has been used to limit the power of Black and Latino voters by dividing communities to create districts with low populations of people of color. 

The bill was created in response to legislation being passed by various state governments that limit who can vote and make it more difficult for voters to vote. According to Voto Latino, over 20 million Latino voters are impacted by voter suppression laws and many of the states passing voter suppression laws have very significant Latino populations like Texas, Florida and Arizona. 

One of the most restrictive of these laws is SB 1 in Texas. The law limits 24-hour polling places, drive-thru voting, presents charges against elected officials who send out voter registration forms to eligible voters, and allows for partisan poll watchers who many say could intimidate voters of color. Various civil rights groups representing communities of color have sued the state because of these measures. 

“SB 1 is an arduous law designed to limit Tejanos’ ability to exercise their full citizenship,” Maria Teresa Kumar, CEO of Voto Latino, one of the organizations suing, told the Texas Tribune.  “Not only are we filing suit to protect the right to vote for all people of color, and the additional 250,000 young Latino Tejanos who will reach voting age in 2022, but to protect every Texan’s right to vote.” 

In Arizona, Colombian-American Representative Ruben Gallego has called out similar laws and compared them to the January 6 attack on the capital. Gallego stated in a congressional speech last week that “the country faces a slow moving coup in the form of voter suppression.”

Despite the seriousness of the issue, many are concerned that the legislation won’t pass due to the filibuster, a Senate rule that makes it almost impossible to pass legislation without getting 60 votes.

The rule has been criticized by many, from former President Obama to Senator Bernie Sanders because it was used by racists throughout history to block legislation that would grant communities of color equal rights. 

The Senate Democrats could override this rule if they all agree to override it, but that seems unlikely given the fact that West Virginia senator Joe Manchin and Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema are vehemently opposed to overriding it.

Whether or not the legislation passes, Latinos need to make sure that their voices are heard in the 2022 elections to ensure we can continue to vote in the future.