The Freedom to Vote Act will set basic national standards to make sure all Americans can cast their ballots in the way that works best for them, regardless of what zip code they live in.
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Committee on Rules and Administration with oversight over federal elections and campaign finance law, joined with her colleagues to introduce the Freedom to Vote Act, legislation to improve access to the ballot for Americans, advance commonsense federal election standards and campaign finance reforms, and protect our democracy. The Freedom to Vote Act has received the full support of Senate Democrats for the second year in a row.
The legislation reflects feedback from state and local election officials to ensure the people responsible for implementing reforms are able to do so effectively. It also elevates the voices of American voters by ending partisan gerrymandering. And it will help eliminate the undue influence of secret money in our elections.
“The freedom to vote is fundamental to all of our freedoms, and as we continue to see unprecedented attacks on our democracy in states across the country, it is clear we must take action. These attacks demand a federal response,” said Klobuchar. “The Freedom to Vote Act will set basic national standards to make sure all Americans can cast their ballots in the way that works best for them, regardless of what zip code they live in. This bill will ensure Americans can request a mail-in ballot and have access to drop boxes, have at least two weeks of early voting, and can register to vote on Election Day.”
“Voting is the heart of our democracy, yet Americans continue to face voter suppression efforts that make it harder to vote or intentionally keep voters from the ballot box,” said Merkley. “Democracy doesn’t exist unless every eligible voter can vote and have their vote counted.”
“The story of American democracy is one of a relentless march towards further equality,” said Schumer. “The Freedom To Vote Act would rectify one of the great historic harms of our past and put us closer to our goal of a fully representative democracy. The legislation is a fair, effective, and common-sense proposal that will strengthen our democracy and give voice to all Americans. Last year, our caucus stood united in fighting against anti-democratic principles, and I urge my colleagues across the aisle to join our attempts to safeguard this fundamental right.”
“The strength of our democracy depends on Americans’ ability to make their voices heard. It’s crucial that we pass the Freedom to Vote Act to help expand voting by mail, early voting, and other reforms to make voting easier. These provisions—many of which were adopted in Virginia—are broadly popular among Americans across the political spectrum and are essential to our democracy,” said Kaine.
“As Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country continue to disenfranchise voters and suppress the right to vote, it is critical that we make it easier, not harder, for eligible Americans to participate in elections,” said Padilla. “This legislation includes proven reforms that I helped implement as California’s top elections official to make our elections more accessible and more secure. It puts an end to partisan gerrymandering, protects access to the ballot box, and ensures our elections can’t be bought — because our democracy works best when everyone’s voice is heard.”
“It’s our responsibility to ensure free and fair elections now to protect our democracy for generations to come,” said Tester. “This critical legislation creates common sense standards that will strengthen local control and keep our elections safe by protecting voting rights, shining a light on dark money in politics, and closing loopholes that allow for foreign spending in our elections. I won’t stop fighting to ensure every eligible Montanan can make their voice heard at the ballot box.”
“From bad actors making mass challenges to scores of legitimate voter registrations, to on-going efforts by partisan state leaders in Georgia and elsewhere to usurp community control from local election boards, it’s clear that the people’s voices are being squeezed out of our democracy and that it’s impacting our ability to address a whole range of problems facing the American people,” said Warnock. “That’s why I’m immensely proud to stand with my colleagues in introducing the Freedom to Vote Act, which would help secure our democracy against these threats undermining our elections, and ensure that every eligible American can cast their ballot and be sure it’s counted.”
“Any threat to the democratic process is a threat to our democracy itself,” said King. “In the face of state-level threats that undercut the fundamental right to vote for millions of Americans, we must act to protect our democracy. The Freedom to Vote Act would set commonsense minimum standards to ensure that no state infringes upon its citizens’ right to vote and confront widespread anti-democratic practices such as partisan gerrymandering and dark money spending. Free, fair and open elections are the backbone of our national commitment to government of the people, by the people, and for the people – and through this legislation, we will do our part to pass this experiment in self-government on to the next generation of Americans.”
“Over the last several years, extreme MAGA Republicans have proven time and time again that they will abandon our most fundamental principles of democracy in favor of extremism,” said Jeffries. “At this critical moment, Democrats know that nothing is more important than protecting and strengthening our democracy. The Freedom to Vote Act protects the right to vote, supports election workers, bans dark money and ends partisan gerrymandering so that our democracy can work For The People.”
“I’m a son of Rochester, New York, the home of two of the most passionate and well-known advocates for voting rights, Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. Today, we continue the fight they began so long ago—to help bring America closer to its foundational promise. The Freedom to Vote Act will protect and strengthen the bedrock of our democracy,” said Morelle.
“The Freedom to Vote Act reflects Congressional Democrats’ unwavering commitment to ensuring every American has a voice and a vote in our democracy,” said Sarbanes. “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. 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.”
The bill is cosponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Fetterman (D-PA), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-VA), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbe Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
This bill, which received the full support of the Democratic Caucus when it was considered on the Senate floor in January 2022, includes three sections, each intended to protect the right to vote and strengthen our democracy. Bill text can be found here.
I. Voter Access and Election Administration
This section includes provisions to improve voter access by implementing reliable state best practices for voter registration and election administration to ensure all Americans can easily exercise their freedom to vote regardless of where they live.
- Automatic Voter Registration and Online Voter Registration: Enacts an automatic voter registration system for each state through the state’s motor vehicle agency and ensures voters in all states have access to online voter registration.
- Election Day Holiday: Makes Election Day a public holiday.
- Uniform Early Voting: Ensures voters have access to at least two weeks of early voting for federal elections, including two weekends, while accommodating small election jurisdictions and vote-by-mail jurisdictions.
- Same Day Voter Registration: Ensures every state offers same day registration at a limited number of locations for the 2024 elections and at all polling locations by 2026, allowing election officials, especially in rural areas, time to implement the new requirements.
- Federal Minimum Standards on Vote by Mail and Drop Boxes: Ensures all voters can request a mail-in ballot, improves the delivery of election mail, and puts in place minimum standards to ensure drop boxes are available and accessible to all voters.
- Strengthens Voter List Maintenance Standards: Requires that the removal of voters from the rolls is done on the basis of reliable and objective evidence and prohibits the use of returned mail sent by third parties to remove voters.
- Counting of Provisional Ballots: Requires provisional ballots to count for all eligible races within a county, regardless of the precinct they were cast in.
- Standards for Voter Identification: Promotes voter confidence and access by requiring a uniform national standard for states that require identification for in-person voting, and allowing voters to present a broad set of identification cards and documents in hard copy and digital form. States that do not have a voter identification requirement would not be required to make any changes.
- Voting Rights Restoration for Returning Citizens: Restores the right to vote in federal elections for people who have served their time for felony convictions after they are released from prison.
- Expanded Voting Access Protections for the Disabled, Native Americans, Military, Overseas Voters, and Underserved Communities: Includes targeted protections to promote accessible voting to communities facing unique challenges.
II. Election Integrity
This section includes measures to promote confidence in elections, stop partisan election subversion, and protect against election interference, both foreign and domestic.
- Preventing State Election Subversion: Establishes federal protections to insulate nonpartisan state and local officials who administer federal elections from undue partisan interference or control.
- Protection of Election Records, Election Infrastructure, and Ballot Tabulation: Strengthens protections for federal election records and election infrastructure in order to protect the integrity and security of ballots and voting systems.
- Voter-Verified Paper Ballots, Reliable Audits, and Voting System Upgrades: Requires states to use voting systems that use paper ballots that can be verified by voters and to implement reliable post-election audits. Also provides grants for states to purchase new and more secure voting systems and make cybersecurity improvements.
- Non-Partisan Election Official Recruitment and Training: Tasks the Election Assistance Commission with developing model training programs to recruit a new generation of election workers and provides dedicated grants for training and recruitment.
- Comprehensive Voting System Security Protections: Puts in place election vendor cybersecurity standards, including standards for manufacturing and assembling voting machines, among other key security measures.
- Establishing Duty to Report Foreign Election Interference: Creates a reporting requirement for federal campaigns to disclose certain foreign contacts.
III. Civic Participation and Empowerment
This section includes provisions to prevent partisan manipulation of the redistricting process, establishes uniform disclosure standards for money in politics, and empowers states to make critical investments in their election systems.
- Non-Partisan Redistricting Reform and Banning Partisan Gerrymandering: Requires states to abide by specific criteria for congressional redistricting and makes judicial remedies available for states’ failure to comply. Allows states to choose how to develop redistricting plans, including the option of having an independent redistricting commission.
- Combatting Secret Money and Election Interference (DISCLOSE Act and Honest Ads Act): Requires super PACs, 501(c)(4) groups, and other organizations spending money in elections to disclose donors and shuts down the use of transfers between organizations to cloak the identity of contributors. Ensures that political ads sold online have the same transparency and disclosure requirements as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.
- State Election Assistance and Innovation Fund: Establishes a self-sustaining fund to finance critical investments in state-led innovations for our democracy and election infrastructure. The fund is financed through an additional assessment paid on federal fines, penalties, and settlements for certain tax crimes and corporate malfeasance. States would be allotted an annual distribution for eligible democracy and election-related investments. States could select to access their full distribution or a partial distribution, or roll over their distribution for future use.
- Nonpartisan Oversight of Federal Election Law: Improves the ability of the Federal Election Commission to carry out oversight and enforcement responsibilities.
- Stopping Illicit Super PAC Coordination: Creates “coordinated spender” category to ensure single-candidate super PACs do not operate as arms of campaigns.
As Chairwoman of the Rules Committee, Klobuchar has been a leading advocate for protecting the right to vote, increasing access to the ballot, and safeguarding election workers and the electoral process.
In April 2023, Klobuchar reintroduced the Election Worker Protection Act, comprehensive legislation to address threats to election workers, with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and 23 of their colleagues.
In March 2023, Klobuchar held a Rules Committee hearing on election administration, including the impact of increasing threats directed at election officials on the ability of states and local governments to administer elections.
Last month, Klobuchar held a Rules Committee oversight hearing over the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the agency tasked with helping states administer federal elections.
In May 2023, Klobuchar and colleagues reintroduced the Protecting Election Administration from Interference Act to expand protections against election interference during the ballot counting and certification processes. In the same month, she introduced the Support our Election Workers Act which would require the EAC to distribute grants to states to provide increased pay for election workers, including people serving as poll workers and election officials.