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Michelle Obama urges Senate to pass voting rights overhaul

Former First Lady Michelle Obama lashed out at what she called 'partisan and unpatriotic' attempts to suppress voting nationwide as she urged the Senate to pass a a Democrat-backed bill to change voting laws.

Expressing support for House Resolution 1, known as the 'For The People Act', Obama said the Senate should pass the bill with no delays after it was approved in the House on Wednesday with no Republican support.

'Our democracy remains under attack by the partisan and unpatriotic actions of those at the state level who are doing everything they can to curtail access to the voting box', wrote Obama in a statement published to Twitter.

'Make no mistake — the idea that we cannot both hold secure elections and ensure that eligible voters can make their voices heard is a false choice.'

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the election reform bill on Wednesday, which they argue is essential to expanding voting access and improving accountability and transparency in Washington.

The bill - also known as HR1 - is one of a handful which have been singled out as priorities - such as the Equality Act, and the George Floyd police reform bill.  

'This bill will make it easier for ordinary Americans to register and cast a ballot. It will ramp up election security and end partisan gerrymandering,' Obama wrote..

'And it will do much, much more to make sure that our system of government remains in the hands of all the many, and not the few.'

Former First Lady Michelle Obama lashed out at what she called 'partisan and unpatriotic' attempts to suppress voting nationwide as she urged the Senate to pass a a Democrat-backed bill to change voting laws

Pictured: The full statement from Michelle Obama supporting the 'For the people act', which she posted to her Twitter account on Thursday evening

Officially known as HR1, the election reform bill would update voting procedures and require states to turn over the task of redrawing congressional districts to independent commissions.

The bill passed by a mostly bipartisan vote of 220 to 210.

John Sarbanes, the Maryland congressman who sponsored the bill, said it was 'designed to restore the voices of Americans who felt left out and locked out for too long.'

He added: 'I don't think the urgency has ever been greater. 

'When you look at what Republicans are doing across the country in statehouses to roll back access to the ballot box, we need to do what we can to establish baseline standards and best practices that allow people to register and vote in America without it being an obstacle course for them.' 

Nancy Pelosi is seen on Wednesday speaking to support the bill, known as HR1

House Democrats are seen gathering on the steps of Congress on Wednesday 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, another Maryland Democrat, said: 'We believe that HR 1 needs to pass because the Republican state legislators, concerned about their losses, either in their own states or in the country, are again upping their efforts to make it more difficult for people to vote.'

Republicans, however, argue that the legislation limits political speech and represents an overreach and a federal power grab that Democrats are advancing in an effort to gain an advantage in elections. 

House Republicans urged their members to vote against it.

President Joe Biden has said he would sign the bill into law if it cleared both the House and the Senate.

But the bills face long odds in the Senate, where all 48 Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them would need to be joined by 10 Republican senators to overcome a filibuster. 

'We're going to do everything in our power - I think Chuck Schumer's going to do everything in his power - to make sure that the agenda that we are working on and promised the people will in fact be the agenda we put forward and hopefully pass,' said Hoyer.

HR1 has been described by supporters as a way of holding Washington accountable 

Already, some Democrats have trained fire on the filibuster and called for its elimination. 

Hoyer called it 'undemocratic' on Tuesday, while James Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat, described how it had been used to deny rights to black citizens.

A move to destroy the filibuster would face severe opposition. 

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has repeatedly said he would 'never' vote to get rid of it, while Biden has said he opposes overturning it.

Some Democrats have suggested a compromise of a carve-out could be possible.

HR1 is designed to improve electoral access for U.S. citizens and look at Congressional districts

Asked about the possibility of a carve-out for voting rights issues, Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock told a reporter on Tuesday: 'I think that the issues are urgent enough to leave all options on the table.'

The bill has particular importance this year because the U.S. Census Bureau is set to turn over population data states use to redraw congressional district maps ahead of the 2022 elections, in which every House lawmaker's seat is up for grabs.

States use different criteria and procedures for drawing the maps. 

Democrats argue that HR1 will allow more people to have a stake in the country

Electoral officials are seen counting votes in Philadelphia on November 4

In 33 states, state legislatures control at least part of the process, the National Conference of State Legislatures says.

Parties in control of state legislatures have often wielded the power to draw the maps in a way that benefits the party in power. Some states have also used this process to target black voters.

The measure also comes as lawmakers in 43 states have introduced legislation to place more limits on voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.everal states, including Georgia, where Warnock and Democrat Jon Ossoff were elected in a political upset in January, have since introduced legislation to change election procedures that activists say make it harder for people to vote. 

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