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A group of grassroots and non-profit organizations held a rally in Harrisburg on Tuesday to persuade U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey to support a bill to change federal election law.

Those in attendance said the purpose for the Deadline for Democracy rally was to oppose voter suppression and gain support from elected officials for a measure known as the “For the People Act.”

Supporters call it the most significant step to expand voting rights in generations. It is dubbed House Resolution 1, a sign of its importance to Democrats. But the measure has stalled in the Senate.

“Our voting rights are in peril at this very moment, and we have to stand up as constituents of Pennsylvania and across the country to demand that our voices be heard and that our elected officials that work for us ensure that they are working for us by passing H.R.1,” said Kadida Kenner, executive director of the Pennsylvania Project at the rally outside of U.S. Senator Pat Toomey’s office in Strawberry Square.

Supporters say the bill would expand voter registration, guarantee early voting and vote-by-mail options nationwide and create independent redistricting commissions, along with regulating campaign spending.

“If we do not fight back, more and more Americans will become disenfranchised and lose their voice in our democracy,” said Katy Personette, deputy director of campaigns for the PA Budget and Policy Center. “The ‘For the People Act’ will ensure every state has automatic and same-day registration options and will require at least 15 days of in-person early voting, among other things.

“We need to make sure that everyone has access to the ballot,” she said.

This bill would also combat gerrymandering to promote fair distribution of poll access to voting districts, backers of the bill said. Supporters also said the bill represents an effort to protect the rights of Black and brown voters whose neighborhoods are affected by voter suppression laws.

U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, introduced the bill in January of this year. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives in March on a 220-209 vote, with all House Democrats voting in favor of it with no Republican support.

Still, the bill’s fate in the Senate is uncertain at best.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., supports the bill, said his spokeswoman Teresa Dennis.

But Toomey, R-Pa., opposes it.

“Among its most egregious provisions, the so-called ‘For the People Act’ would effectively nullify state voter ID laws, mandate public funding of political campaigns, and transform the Federal Election Commission into a partisan body empowered to limit free speech,” Toomey said in a press release.

Republican members of Congress have said they don’t support the bill because they view it as an attack on the constitutional right to freedom of speech. U.S. Scott Perry, R-York County, is among the Republican lawmakers speaking out against the bill.

“H.R. 1 is anything but ‘For the People;’ it undermines our fundamental First Amendment Rights of Assembly and Free Speech, usurps the rights of state and local governments, and ultimately degrades the integrity of our elections – which, frankly, is the goal. The bill purposefully stifles our open process and honest debate – and is a tragedy for the American People,” Perry said in a press release.

Last month, Senate Republicans used the filibuster to block the legislation. Given the Republican opposition and need for bipartisan support to pass the Senate, it’s not likely to reach the desk of President Joe Biden, at least in its current form.

But Senate Democrats have vowed to keep pressing.

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