U.S. Sen. John Cornyn Calls Democratic Push to Expand Voting Rights a 'Coup d'Etat'

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn wants to leave voting rights up to the states.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn wants to leave voting rights up to the states. "John Cornyn" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
On the Senate floor Monday, Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn accused Democrats of attempting to stage a “coup d’état.” No, liberals aren’t storming the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to seize power from an opposing party (that would be absurd), but they are trying to make it easier for Americans to vote.

Partisan lawmakers are divided on their stance on the For the People Act, which Democrats say would expand voting rights. The sweeping bill, which was blocked by Senate Republicans on Tuesday evening, would also seek to ban partisan gerrymandering and reform U.S. campaign finance, among other proposals.

Many Republican lawmakers decried the bill as weakening states’ rights, but even nonpartisan organizations saw the act as meritorious. The law and policy institute The Brennan Center, for instance, praised the measure, saying it would transform American democracy by making it stronger, fairer and more inclusive.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, suggested compromising on some of the bill’s provisions. But standing on the Senate floor on Monday, Cornyn laid out his problems with Manchin’s proposals.

For one thing, Cornyn firmly believes that “there is no voter suppression crisis — certainly not a systemic one.” He argued the voting rights overhaul would be wholly unnecessary, warning that even a scaled-down version would end in a “federal takeover of [local] elections.”

On top of that, the updated For the People Act would still amount to a “one-size-fits-all federal mandate” that is a “partisan, political takeover.” (If anyone knows what a partisan, political takeover should look like, it’s Cornyn’s colleague, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.)

Cornyn’s speech comes after Texas conservative lawmakers during the past legislative session attempted to restrict voting rights statewide. Critics were quick to condemn the senator after The Hill posted a clip of his speech to Twitter.

“No effort to stop voters from voting, @JohnCornyn? I guess removing polls from 13 of 24 locations in Houston in predominantly Black & brown areas is OK,” wrote one Twitter user. “As is, no voting on Sundays. As is removing people from voter rolls w/out informing them. No voter suppression going on here.”
Some took issue with Cornyn’s claim that there isn’t a widespread effort to prevent voters from casting a ballot.

“Clearly @JohnCornyn has not read any of the state-level bills,” wrote another Twitter user. “There are over 300 of them that do exactly this.”
Other Twitter users drew parallels to the Confederate South, which fought for the right to enslave people under the euphemism “states’ rights.”

“Strange how ‘states rights’ always get dragged out and dusted off when it comes to denying basic rights to people of color and other undesirables,” said @GetOnWithThese.
And some made fun of Cornyn’s quip that Democratic lawmakers are struggling to accept reality.

“Speaking of acceptance of reality...” wrote user @HistoryArtLove, along with a meme stating “YOU'RE IN A CULT & HE LOST. NO, REALLY,” in reference to Republicans who refuse to accept that former President Donald Trump lost the election.
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter