We are at a critical moment in our democracy, where our fundamental right to vote is at risk. With President Biden’s speech today, I wanted to put together a list of what is in the Freedom to Vote Act that is before the Senate. Every single Republican Senator is in opposition to this bill, as well as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. They don’t even want to debate it, let alone vote on the bill itself.
And before I go too far, the Constitution more than allows for the Federal Government to create or alter election laws, despite Republican talking points:
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.
What does this bill do? Let’s go over the key points:
- Early Voting, the bill would require all 50 states to offer early voting at least two weeks prior to election day. For at least ten hours a day.
- Mail Voting, the bill would create a national standard allowing no-excuse vote by mail for every eligible voter. As a voter in Washington State, I can vouch for this being an amazing option. I can take my time filling out my ballot, and properly research candidates as I vote.
- Election Day holiday, self-explanatory — Election Day would become a legal public holiday. Allowing more people the time off to vote if they need to.
- Voter Validation, implement a national standard for states that have identification requirements for in person voting. Allowing the use of a wide range of identifications.
- Cracking down on deceptive practices, the bill would prohibit the dissemination of false and misleading information designed to deter voters. It would also increase penalties for voter intimidation.
- Banning of partisan gerrymandering, this would require strong uniform rules for congressional redistricting. As of today, this is one of the largest threats to free and fair elections as partisans draw districts around the voters they want. Excluding those they don’t. Effectively picking their voters, vs the voters picking them.
- Automatic voter registration, all eligible voters are automatically registered to vote when they provide information to a participating agency. For example, when you get a driver’s license. 19 states already do this today.
- Online voter registration, require states to allow voters to register online. 42 states already do this today.
- Curbing of “dark money” from undisclosed sources, requiring an entity that spends more than $10,000 in an election to disclose all major donors.
This is just a selection of the Freedom to Vote act, you can find out more information here or here. This does not even cover the John Lewis Voting Rights act which will strengthen parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. You can learn more about it and its importance here or here.
As Americans, we should welcome expanded access to voting. There is no reason that anyone should have to wait literal hours in line just to cast a ballot in the year 2022. Mail Voting, Early Voting and an Election Day holiday will all expand access to the vote and give more citizens a voice in where our country goes.
If these things all sound good to you, I urge you to write to your Senators and let them know how you feel. They must change the filibuster rules and pass both bills. Democracy itself depends on it.