Senator Reverend Warnock was joined by colleagues from the Senate and House to reintroduce the Freedom to Vote Act, which 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
Senator Reverend Warnock: “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”
Bill also seeks to end partisan gerrymandering and root out the influence of dark money in politics
Senator Reverend Warnock: “The sacred right to vote is preservative of all other rights in our country. Every eligible American ought to have a voice in the direction of our country and our destiny within it because our American house cannot be whole until everyone in the family has a say in our shared future”
In 2023, state legislators have introduced over 320 bills in 45 states that restrict voting rights. In 11 states, have become law—higher than any year in the last decade except 2021
***WATCH VIDEO OF SENATOR REVEREND WARNOCK’S FULL REINTRODUCTION REMARKS HERE***
Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) led a bicameral group of federal lawmakers in reintroducing the Freedom to Vote Act, legislation to improve access to the ballot for all Americans; advance commonsense federal election standards and campaign finance reforms; and protect our democracy. Senator Warnock joined his colleagues for a news conference earlier in the day to announce the legislation’s introduction.
“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 Senator Reverend Warnock. “That’s why I’m immensely proud to reintroduce 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.”
The updated Freedom to Vote Act reflects feedback from state and local election officials to ensure the people responsible for implementing reforms are able to do so effectively. In 2023, state legislators have introduced over 320 bills in 45 states that restrict voting rights. In 11 states, these bills have become law—higher than any year in the last decade except 2021. 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.
Senator Reverend Warnock added: “The sacred right to vote is preservative of all other rights in our country. Every eligible American ought to have a voice in the direction of our country and our destiny within it because our American house cannot be whole until everyone in the family has a say in our shared future. The Senate needs to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, and I won’t stop pushing until we pass voting rights legislation that will fortify our democracy.”
The Freedom to Vote Act is being reintroduced this Congress after Senator Reverend Warnock fought in the 117th Congress to advance the bill, including working to get all the members of the Senate Democratic Caucus to co-sponsor the bill. Senator Warnock has been a leading advocate in the Senate for enacting meaningful federal voting rights legislation, including urging his colleagues to pass federal voting rights protections in his maiden floor speech after being elected; crafting updated federal voting rights legislation to address various voter suppression efforts happening in Georgia and nationwide; and pressing the moral case in the Senate and beyond for why Congress must urgently pass legislation to protect the sacred right to vote. This past June, Public Citizen awarded Senator Warnock with the Golden Boot Award for his advocacy at the federal level to champion federal voting rights legislation and defend our democracy.
The legislation is endorsed by the Interfaith Alliance and Fair Fight Action.
“Voting is, at its core, a sacred duty and the most fundamental way to participate in our democracy and to make our voices heard,” said Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, president and CEO of Interfaith Alliance. “As an organization working to achieve an inclusive vision of religious freedom and democracy, Interfaith Alliance commends Senator Warnock for his leadership on this critical piece of legislation which will ensure that all people, regardless of their beliefs, have equal access to the ballot box while promoting secure elections. People of diverse faiths and beliefs have a moral duty to ensure that the law guarantees an equal right to vote, regardless of who you are and which party you choose.”
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. A one-pager can be found here.
See below key aspects of the Freedom to Vote Act:
- 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.
- 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.
- Election Day Holiday: Makes Election Day a public holiday.
- 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.
- 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.
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.