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National bill on voting standards pushed anew by Democrats in Congress

Photo by Angela Breck.

Congressional Democrats on Tuesday said they plan to again introduce a bill to set national voting standards in response to state legislatures passing strict voting laws.

The bill, known as the Freedom to Vote Act, would establish national standards for early voting, mail-in ballots and protection of poll workers and volunteers from harassment. It provides funds for states to purchase updated voter machines and cybersecurity updates, among other initiatives.

“Democracy is facing unprecedented threats like we have not seen in more than a century,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said. “MAGA Republicans prove the need for this legislation time and time again.”

The bill, whose lead House sponsor is Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes (D), also would require super political action committees to disclose their donors and tackles gerrymandering by establishing criteria for nonpartisan congressional redistricting.

“By designating the Freedom to Vote Act as H.R. 11 in the House and S.1 in the Senate, we are giving this bill the highest possible priority because our most fundamental freedoms are at stake,” Sarbanes said in a statement. “I am proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing this bicameral legislation that returns power to the people by ensuring access to the ballot box, fixing partisan gerrymandering and finally addressing the undue and corrupting influence of big money on our politics and the functioning of our government.”

“This bill speaks to our nation’s ideals,” said Democratic Rep. Joe Morelle of New York, the ranking member on the Committee on House Administration.

“We believe in our core that democracy works best when everyone can participate and has an equal say in the decisions governing our lives. We will pass the Freedom to Vote Act to stand up against disenfranchisement and protect the very bedrock of our democracy,” Morelle said.

But with Republicans controlling the House, and Democrats with a slim majority in the Senate, the bill is unlikely to become law.

Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, said she knows “we have an uphill fight.”

She said Democrats have worked to put voting rights on the national stage and that several state legislatures — including her home state of Minnesota — have used the congressional bill as a template to pass voting laws.

House Republicans last week passed their own elections reform bill out of committee, which is also unlikely to become law.

During that meeting, Democrats submitted an amendment that included the text of the Freedom to Vote Act, and it was not adopted by Republicans.

Following the 2020 presidential election, state legislatures with a Republican majority have passed strict voting requirements such as voter ID laws, a shorter period for early voting and additional requirements for mail-in voting, among other things.

This trend has concerned voting rights activists and Democrats who have pushed for legislation to strengthen voting rights, partially after a 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act.

Schumer said that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act would also be introduced later this Congress. That bill would restore the section of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court struck down in 2013, but the legislation has repeatedly failed to advance in the U.S. Senate.

Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report. 


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National bill on voting standards pushed anew by Democrats in Congress