ATLANTA — Ahead of federal elections slated for next year, Senate Democrats gave another push for election law reforms by introducing the Freedom to Vote Act on Tuesday.
U.S. Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock, D-GA, who co-sponsored the bill, spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday calling on his colleagues to support the bill which he says expands voter access, advances election integrity reforms and protects the nation’s democracy from emerging threats.
“The Freedom to Vote Act will improve access to the ballot for all eligible Americans by setting national standards for absentee voting, early voting and in-person voting; it will make sure that [ballot] drop boxes are available for workers; it will enable the work that is so necessary to strengthen our democracy,” Warnock said. “This bill will end partisan gerrymandering – yet another way in which the voices of ordinary people are squeezed out of their democracy; and it will advance commonsense reforms to secure our elections.”
The bill, SB 2747, led by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, comes after previously proposed election bills — For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act —did not pass in both chambers this year.
The new bill has some components of those bills and include same day voter registration, making Election Day a national holiday, expanding early voting, and banning bipartisan gerrymandering.
Other highlights include:
— automatic voter registration, and permitting voter registration applications to serve as an application for absentee ballot
— allowing online registration, online updating of registration information and permitting voter registration applications to serve as an application for absentee ballot
— inclusion of voter registration information with certain leases and vouchers for federally assisted rental housing and mortgage applications
— allowing voters to request a mail-in ballot but not sending them out automatically
— mandatory, nationwide use of machines that deliver paper ballots
— restoring federal voting rights to returning citizens who have been released from prison after serving their sentences
— allowing voters to use a range of identification cards and documents to vote
— federal protections for local offices from partisan state interference or control
— more strict campaign finance regulations, including prohibiting contributions by foreign nationals in connection with ballot initiatives
The election law reforms come following several states — including Georgia, Alabama and Texas — enacted laws that Democrats say limit voter access.
“With the redistricting process already underway in a number of states, the time has never been more urgent for the U.S. Senate to take action to protect the freedom to vote,” said Fair Fight Action Founder and Chair Stacey Abrams, who was a candidate for Georgia governor in 2018. “We need the freedom to vote in fair elections so we can elect leaders who will deliver for us. Together, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will protect our democracy by ensuring all eligible Americans regardless of zip code can register to vote, cast a ballot and have that ballot counted.”
Warnock said he he hoped his Republican colleagues could support the bill, or compromise to get an election reform bill passed.