Biden and Warnock

President Joe Biden and Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., enter Ebenezer Baptist Church, Tuesday in Atlanta. Warnock is senior pastor at the church.

Voters should determine the outcome of elections, not politicians and party loyalists.

Civil rights leaders in Atlanta rebuffed President Joe Biden’s visit Tuesday to talk about voting rights.

It’s not that they disagree with Biden’s talking points about federal voting legislation.

It’s just that they are sick and tired of talk and want to see action.

To this point the push for a new voting rights act has been all hat and no cattle.

Republicans in the House and Senate have demonstrated they can work together to block legislation and thwart the Biden agenda.

Democrats, on the other hand, have clearly demonstrated they cannot close ranks and take advantage of their razor-thin majority. Despite controlling the House, the Senate and the White House, Democrats have failed to pass the administration’s Build Back Better plan, the signature piece of the Biden agenda, and have now stalled on voting rights legislation despite the efforts of Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock.

Another U.S. senator, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, has proved to be the spoiler of the Democratic Party and, in many ways, the most powerful lawmaker in the nation, but that is not a badge of honor. Manchin’s perceived power has not been because of anything he has accomplished but simply in being an obstructionist.

Georgia is among a handful of Republican-led states that have passed restrictive voting laws which effectively allow state lawmakers, always under the control of one party or the other, to appoint a hand-picked board that can take control of local elections in the event of controversy or questionable activity. That’s dangerous and undemocratic.

The law also shortens the period for early voting and reduces the number of, visibility of and accessibility of drop boxes. Restricting voter access disproportionately disadvantages Black voters.

To be clear, only legally registered voters should vote in Georgia elections but for those legally registered voters, voting should be convenient, easy and encouraged, not suppressed.

President Biden has called Georgia’s voting restrictions, passed this year, an atrocity and compared the law to Jim Crow-era voter suppression.

Those are strong words, but just words.

Maybe Manchin cannot be reached and will continue to oppose just to oppose, but Biden, Warnock, Vice President Kamala Harris and others willing to lead on this issue must use all their influence, reach across the aisle and protect democracy not just for our time but for all time.

GOP lawmakers must be called to the right side of history and realize voting rights are not Democrat rights or Republican rights but American rights.

This is the defining issue of our time.

It is time to leverage the full weight of the presidency and to realize the gravity of the moment.

Biden ran for office as a consensus builder. It is time to build consensus. If there was ever an issue that should garner bipartisan support, the right to vote and building guardrails around democracy should be that issue.

— The Valdosta (Georgia) Daily Times

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