Sen. Ossoff Introduces Bill Guaranteeing the Right to Vote For All Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff (D) introduced a bill on Tuesday that would guarantee voting rights for all American citizens. The bill, called the Right to Vote Act, would enforce U.S. citizens’ right to vote by allowing any American to sue any state or local government for a policy that restricts or impedes voting access in any way.

“This bill would empower voters to challenge in court any action taken by a state or local government that makes it harder to vote, and force that state or that locality to demonstrate that the restrictions serve some governmental purpose and are the least restrictive means of doing so,” Ossoff said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights, where he introduced the bill. 

Ossoff’s bill was cosponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Angus King (I-Maine), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). 

“As Republican-led legislatures continue to pass laws designed to suppress the right to vote and courts fail to provide a meaningful check, it is more important than ever for Congress to affirm that voters have a right to participate in our elections,” Padilla said in a statement. 

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in the 2013 landmark decision in Shelby County v. Holder — ruling that Section 5 of the VRA violates the U.S. Constitution — GOP-led legislatures across the country have sought to restrict who can vote, through bills that impose voter ID laws, limit the voter registration process, allow for the purging of voter rolls and further restrict how and when people can vote. Section 5 required certain jurisdictions with histories of discrimination to receive federal approval before enacting voting rules or maps.

“This legislation enables voters to challenge policies that make it more difficult to cast their ballots, empowering people to protect voting rights nationwide,” Klobuchar said in a statement. 

Ossoff’s bill is the latest effort from Senate Democrats to expand and strengthen voting rights on a federal level. On Feb. 29, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D) led his party in reintroducing the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a landmark bill that restores much of what was lost in the Shelby County ruling. 

In his State of the Union address last week, President Joe Biden devoted a portion of his speech to voting rights, honoring the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who was a titan of voting rights advocacy. “If you truly want to honor him and all the heroes who marched with him, then it’s time for more than just talk,” Biden said to members of Congress. “Pass and send me the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and stop denying another core value of America.”

Read the bill here.