What’s in the 2 major suffrage bills? Senate Democrats are making a final effort to pass

  • Senate Democrats face an uphill battle in their latest push to contend right to vote legislation.
  • Democrats plan to hold another vote on two sweeping bills that would reshape the US election.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to hold another vote for the Voting Freedom Act and the John Lewis Advancing Voting Rights Act as soon as Senate Republicans obstruct both bills last year.

Both bills will almost certainly be stalled again, and Schumer’s promise to hold a vote on changing Senate filibuster rules is also on shaky ground due to continued opposition from the senses. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

If the bills were somehow passed, they would massively reshape the landscape of voting and election administration in the United States.

The Free Vote Act would standardize election laws across the country and dramatically expand voting access, including reversing the effects of dozens of new state-level voting restrictions passed this year. The John Lewis bill would restore key 1965 suffrage provisions that were struck down or weakened by the Supreme Court, and change the way federal courts handle election cases.

With the Washington Monument in the background, Reverend Al Sharpton, center, holds a banner with Martin Luther King, III, and Democratic Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green of Texas, during the march to demand protections from a new erosion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on August 28, 2021.AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

The Free Suffrage Act

The Freedom to Vote Act, or FTVA, is the slimmed-down successor to HR 1, a massive Democratic messaging bill on voting rights, campaign finance and federal ethics, which passed the Room in March.

After Senate Republicans filibustered HR 1 in June, a group of Senate Democrats drafted the FTVA, incorporating significant comments from Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, election officials and other stakeholders.

The 50 Republicans in the Senate decided to block debate on the bill when it was put to a vote in late October.

What the bill would require on voting access:

  • Election Day as a federal holiday.
  • Online, automatic, same-day voter registration.
  • A minimum of 15 days of early voting, including at least two weekends.
  • No-Excuse Absentee Voting with broad access to ballot boxes and online ballot tracking, in addition to streamlined election mail delivery by the US Postal Service.
  • States should accept a wide range of non-photographic forms of identification in places where ID is required to vote.
  • Counting eligible votes on provisional ballots cast in the wrong constituency.
  • Restoration of the right to vote to formerly incarcerated persons convicted of crimes.
  • Imposes stricter regulations on voter roll keeping that make it harder for states to remove eligible voters from rolls.
  • More protections and resources to serve voters with disabilities and foreign/military voters.
  • Increased federal protections and oversight for voting in US territories.
  • Improve voter registration resources and outreach, in addition to reauthorizing and strengthening the United States Election Assistance Commission.
What's in the 2 major suffrage bills?  Senate Democrats make one last push to pass
House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Center, holds cards during a meeting of the Pennsylvania Legislative Redistribution Commission at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021Matt Rourke/AP

On electoral administration and redistricting:

  • Prohibits partisan gerrymandering by requiring states to use certain criteria when selecting new congressional districts.
  • Requires states to use voter-verifiable ballots and conduct post-election audits.
  • Provides cybersecurity grants to states and directs EAC to strengthen cybersecurity standards for voting equipment.
  • Prohibits local election officials from being fired or removed without cause.
  • Makes interference with voter registration a federal crime and imposes tougher penalties for harassment, threats, and intimidation of election workers.
  • Reaffirms chain of custody requirements protecting the integrity of ballots and election materials, a provision intended to combat unofficial partisan “verifications”.

On campaign finance:

  • The bill includes the DISCLOSE Act, which targets so-called black money in elections, and the HONEST Ads Act, which aims to improve transparency in campaign advertising.
  • Creates a federal duty for campaigns to report instances of foreign interference.
  • Stricter enforcement of illegal coordination between single-candidate PACs and campaigns.
  • Strengthened enforcement of campaign finance regulations by the Federal Election Commission.
What's in the 2 major suffrage bills?  Senate Democrats make one last push to pass
Activists gather outside the Supreme Court on June 23, 2021 in Washington, DC.Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The John Lewis Advance Voting Rights Act:

The John Lewis VRAA is particularly aimed at the Supreme Court and federal courts, seeking to overturn decisions that invalidated or weakened key elements of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

More importantly, it creates a new formula to reinstate the federal preclearance requirement requiring states with a history of discrimination to seek federal permission before adopting new voting rules or redistricting plans. The Supreme Court struck down the previous coverage formula in 2013 history Shelby vs. Holder decision.

It also overturns the Supreme Court’s 2021 decision in Brnovich vs. DNC, which significantly weakened voters’ protections against racial discrimination under Section 2 of the VRA.

The House version of the bill passed that house in late August. The Senate version, which has some relatively minor differences, was blocked by all but one Senate Republican in November.

  • Overturns the new “guidelines” and standards of the Supreme Court of Brnovich decision that makes it harder for plaintiffs to prove racial discrimination under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
  • Enshrines judicial precedent and legislative history to strengthen efforts to bring majority and minority districts under the parameters of the Voting Rights Act.
  • Restores the federal preclearance regime that the Supreme Court struck down in Shelby. The bill creates a new coverage formula that requires states to have a recent history of voting rights violations.
  • Targets federal courts by requiring judges to explain their reasoning in emergency rulings they pass on the so-called shadow roll, and attempts to prevent judges from relying solely on proximity to the election to decide cases of urgency on the electoral rules, known as the Purcell principle.
  • The Senate version of the law also includes the Election Workers and Polling Places Protection Act, which provides greater federal protection for election workers from harassment and intimidation.
  • The Senate version further addresses the Native American Voting Rights Act, a bill that strengthens voting rights and voter protections for voters in Indian Country.
What's in the 2 major suffrage bills?  Senate Democrats make one last push to pass
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence during a joint session of Congress to count Electoral College votes on January 6, 2021.Photo by Erin Scott – Pool/Getty Images

What about the law on the electoral count?

If both of these bills fail, as expected, the best chance for serious electoral reform may be an update to the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which governs how Congress counts electoral votes and seeks to provide an avenue for Congress to resolve disputed elections.

In the year since the Jan. 6 insurrection, pundits from across the political spectrum have called on Congress to modernize the 19th-century law after former President Donald Trump and his allies exploited its ambiguities in an attempt to pressuring former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn Trump’s election law. Loss of college.

In particular, experts advocated for Congress to clarify that the vice president’s role is strictly ceremonial, clarify the standard for raising objections (especially in cases where states have submitted only one list of voters unchallenged) and raises the bar for how many lawmakers had to raise an objection.

Reform efforts with lawmakers from both chambers are currently pursuing four separate efforts to reform the law. In the Senate, a group of Democrats led by Senator Angus King is considering introducing a legislation bill, and a bipartisan group of moderate senators is also studying the matter.

What's in the 2 major suffrage bills?  Senate Democrats make one last push to pass
Senator Mitt Romney of Utah.Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

“It’s early in the process. We’ve exchanged a list of changes that we’d like to see as corrections that we’d like to make to the law, as well as other election-related provisions,” Sen. Mitt Romney said. Utah, a member of the bipartisan group, told reporters Tuesday.

In the House, the select committee on the January 6 insurrection and Democrats on the House Administration Committee plan to release their own analysis and recommendations for reforming the law.

Democratic leaders in Congress and the White House, however, have said reforming the CEA alone is insufficient and not a substitute for passing major voting rights legislation.

The number of different proposals on Capitol Hill, the lack of support for a stand-alone CEA bill (so far) from Democratic leaders, and the lack of a clear deadline also run counter to the possibility of ECA reform.

“I don’t think there’s any urgency to do that immediately, in part because we don’t have an election where the Voter Count Act kicks in for three years,” Romney said.


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