WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, July 18, Democratic members of Congress reintroduced the Freedom to Vote Act, a comprehensive voting rights bill that would establish national voting standards, end partisan gerrymandering, tackle felony disenfranchisement, require the disclosure of top donors and create protections for nonpartisan election officials.
At a press conference earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Reps. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.) and Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) introduced the bicameral bill, which was first introduced in 2021.
Specifically, the Freedom to Vote Act would:
- Make November Election Days a public holiday,
- Enact automatic voter registration for each state,
- Require same-day voter registration and early voting periods in each state,
- Restore the right to vote in federal elections for people who have served their time for felony convictions,
- Expand voting protections and access requirements for disabled voters, military members and overseas voters,
- Set specific criteria for congressional redistricting to end partisan gerrymandering,
- Strengthen donor transparency in pursuit of ending dark money in elections and
- Establish federal protections to insulate nonpartisan state and local officials who administer elections.
The timing of the bill’s reintroduction is in response to House Republicans’ American Confidence in Elections (ACE) Act, an omnibus voter suppression bill introduced last week. However, Democrats’ have been seeking to establish federal protections for elections since the violent events on Jan. 6. As Kaine put it at today’s press conference, Jan. 6, 2021 “was an effort to disenfranchise 80 million people…The only response to an instance of massive disenfranchisement of that kind is to guarantee that people’s franchises are respected, and that’s what this bill does.”
Democrats also pointed to the efforts to restrict access to the ballot box that have swept the country this year with at least 11 states passing legislation that suppresses the vote, according to research by the Brennan Center for Justice.
Sewell, one of the bill’s primary sponsors, closed out the press conference, by saying, “Across this nation, MAGA extremists are working to restrict voter access to undermine faith in our elections and to dilute the power of the black vote. We saw it in 2013 when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act and unleashed a wave of voting restrictions all across this nation. We saw it in 2020 when the former president spread false claims of voter fraud in an attempt to overturn a free and fair election. And we saw it last week when Republicans passed their national voter suppression bill on the House side through the House and Administration Committee.”
If enacted, the Freedom to Vote Act would be the most significant federal voting rights bill in decades.