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Group founded by Stacey Abrams launches voting rights initiative

Fair Fight Action, the voting rights organization founded by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, is launching the 2.0 version of its "Hot Call Summer" campaign, a push to educate and mobilize voters of color and progressives around two federal voting rights bills. 

One of the measures, the "For the People Act," has been passed by the House but was blocked by Republicans in the Senate, and the other, the "John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act," is a bill co-sponsored by Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski but has not yet been introduced. 

In a release first shared with CBS News, Fair Fight is arguing that several provisions must be included in any federal voting rights legislation: protection and expansion of mail voting; methods for reducing long lines at the polls; stopping threats to election workers and voter intimidation; ensuring the drawing of fair districts and ending partisan gerrymandering.

"Fair Fight Action is turning the heat up on Congress all summer long to ensure they take immediate action to establish minimum national voting standards and restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act," Hillary Holley, the Director of Organizing for Fair Fight Action said in a statement. "With the recent Supreme Court decision on Brnovich v. DNC further weakening the Voting Rights Act, the urgent need for federal action to protect the freedom to vote is greater than ever." 

That decision in a case challenging Arizona election law upheld two state rules, finding that the restrictions did not violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. It came as Republican legislatures across the country have been considering changes to tighten their election laws in the wake of former President Trump's unsuccessful election challenges after his loss to President Biden in the 2020 election.

The group launched its first phone campaign on the issue in June, resulting in calls from voters to 40,000 senators that month. 

On Tuesday, President Biden weighed in on voting rights in an impassioned speech attacking state House Republicans for trying to pass restrictive voting laws. He called their efforts a "21st century Jim Crow assault."

"This is election subversion.  It's the most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history," Mr. Biden said. "It's simply unconscionable."

He stopped short of calling on Senate Democrats to end the filibuster in order to push through voting rights legislation, despite the steep challenge any measure would face because it would require the support of 10 Republicans. 

GOP Senator Pat Toomey, one of a handful of Republicans to vote to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol as his defeat was being affirmed by Congress, sharply criticized Mr. Biden for his remarks.  

"Suggesting that election integrity measures such as voter ID and prohibitions on ballot harvesting are reminiscent of Jim Crow is false, offensive, and trivializes a dark period of actual systemic racism in parts of America," Toomey said in a statement Tuesday. "President Biden knows that the state laws he has attacked are in many cases less restrictive than that of his own home state of Delaware."

Voting rights have also taken center stage this week in Washington after over 50 Texas House Democrats went to Washington to prevent a quorum in the state house and block a GOP-backed election bill. In their absence, the Texas state Senate passed its bill Tuesday along party lines, but the measure cannot advance in the House while the Democrats are out of the state. While nine Senate Democrats went to Washington, there were not enough to prevent a quorum in the Senate. 

Both bills would eliminate drive-thru and the 24-hour early voting used in the Houston area last year due to the pandemic. They would also expand early voting hours in some counties; add ID requirements for mail voting; increase criminal penalties for some election officials who don't follow regulations; and give partisan poll watchers more power.

The Democratic lawmakers who left the state are urging the federal government to take action on voting rights.

"We are here in D.C., our nation's capital, because we want to protect the civil right to vote for millions of Texans. We were quite literally forced to move and leave the state of Texas. We also know that we are living right now on borrowed time in Texas, and we can't stay here indefinitely to run out the clock, to stop Republican anti-voter bills. That's why we need Congress to act now, and pass the For The People Act," state Representative Rhetta Bowers said Tuesday. 

Texas Republicans have slammed the Democrats and said the lawmakers are avoiding work. Governor Greg Abbott may call another special session when the current one expires, which he has pledged to do. 

Jack Turman and Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.

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