Heinrich, Luján Introduce Legislation to Protect the Freedom to Vote and Strengthen Our Democracy
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.
WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) joined U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chairwoman of the Committee on Rules and Administration, 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 all 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.
“We have witnessed a systematic assault on our democracy and it requires a systematic and comprehensive response. This legislation delivers. It’s also urgently needed — to combat new Jim Crow-era voter suppression laws being passed by state legislatures and a radical Supreme Court majority that’s allowing dark money to flood politics,” said Heinrich. “I am deeply frustrated that Republicans have repeatedly used the filibuster to block us from even beginning debate on bills like the Freedom to Vote Act. But we cannot give up on passing voting rights and election reform legislation. Not when our democracy is on the line.”
“The right to vote is sacred – allowing Americans to choose the direction of our country. Rather than improving voter access, Republican-led state legislatures have deliberately added unnecessary obstacles that limit ballot box access, in the hopes that they can tilt the outcome of elections,” said Luján. “Our democracy is worth fighting for. That’s why Senate Democrats have united to reintroduce the Freedom to Vote Act to oppose voter suppression and improve ballot box access in New Mexico and across the nation.”
“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.”
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.
Full 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.