“The Freedom to Vote Act is a strong step toward enacting pro-voter reforms that are needed to ensure that all eligible Americans have the freedom to vote.” ~ Virginia Kase Solomón, CEO, League of Women Voters of the United States
The basic concept behind democracy is that the people should have a voice in who governs them and how they're governed. However, the core principle of "one person, one vote" has been eroded over the years, prompting the creation of the Freedom to Vote Act. This significant piece of legislation was designed to safeguard and enhance the voting process in the United States.
Join us as we demystify what’s in the Freedom to Vote Act, tracing its recent history, outlining its key provisions, and highlighting why it is essential for campaign finance reform and a more representative democracy.
The Freedom to Vote Act is a comprehensive bill that aims to address numerous issues related to voting and election administration. This piece of legislation was originally introduced in 2021, but was defeated in the Senate. It’s being reintroduced now in response to a flurry of state laws restricting voting rights and the introduction of the American Confidence in Elections (ACE) Act (H.R. 4563) by the 118th Congress on July 11, 2023.
Beginning on page 6, the 224 page omnibus ACE bill expounds for 15 pages on the constitutionality of Federal “interference” in how states run elections. However, the primary purpose of that bill is voter suppression and a further rollback of protections set forth in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In order to counteract that narrative, the primary objectives of the Freedom to Vote Act are to make voting more accessible, ensure fair representation, and enhance the transparency of campaign finance.
The Act proposes to achieve these ends by:
Expanding Voter Access: The Freedom to Vote Act includes provisions to make voter registration easier and more accessible, including same-day voter registration and online registration options.
Standardizing Voting Procedures: The Act seeks to establish uniform standards for early voting and mail-in voting, which have become increasingly popular. This includes creating a baseline national standard for voting access and making presidential elections a national holiday. The bill would also require all 50 states to create a two-week early voting window before elections. These measures address the problem of people needing time off from work to vote. This will also neutralize the problem of polling stations being closed, meaning that low-income Americans and seniors will no longer have to travel outside of their immediate neighborhood to vote due to poll closures.
Combating Voter Suppression: Provisions are designed to prevent and penalize acts that unfairly restrict voting access, particularly for marginalized communities.
Redistricting Reforms: The Act includes measures to address gerrymandering, ensuring fairer and more representative electoral districts.
Campaign Finance Reform: A critical component of the Act is its approach to campaign finance, aiming to reduce the influence of money in politics and increase transparency in political donations.
The journey of the Freedom to Vote Act has been complex and contentious. Sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative John Sarbanes, it was initially introduced on September 14, 2021 in response to concerns about voting access and election integrity. Since that time, the Freedom to Vote Act has faced various challenges in Congress.
It initially passed in the House during a vote taken in January 2022, but it was defeated in the Senate. The bill was reintroduced on July 18, 2023 by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and six other Democratic lawmakers, three each from the House and Senate, including Klobuchar and Sarbanes.
The Freedom to Vote Act is a bicameral bill, but it is not bipartisan. That means it was sponsored and introduced by lawmakers from both legislative chambers but without the support of both establishment parties. The main proponents are largely Democratic lawmakers, voting rights activists, and various civil society groups.
It is endorsed by the League of Women Voters and is often linked to the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. These supporters argue that it is crucial in countering restrictive voting laws passed in several states, which they believe disproportionately affect minority voters, the elderly, and the economically disadvantaged.
One of the most compelling arguments for the Freedom to Vote Act is its potential to make voting easier, which will foster a more representative democracy. This inclusivity is vital for a democracy that truly reflects the will of all Americans who still support the concept.
For example, standardizing early and mail-in voting procedures and expanding voter registration options could significantly increase voter participation, especially among those who have historically faced barriers to voting.
It also seeks to prevent disenfranchisement by restoring the voting rights of felons who have served their sentence. This is an issue that disproportionately affects lower income individuals and people of color.
The bill also seeks to preserve voting access protections for disabled voters, active duty military members, and overseas voters.
The Freedom to Vote Act's approach to reforming campaign finance is equally crucial. The influence of money in politics has long been a contentious issue, with many arguing that it skews political representation in favor of the wealthy and well-connected.
Specific measures in the bill that address campaign finance include:
Requiring any entity that spends more than $10,000 to disclose all major donors
Tightening rules to keep SuperPACs independent
Removing partisanship from FEC campaign finance investigations
Creating voluntary small donor matching programs at the state level
By enhancing transparency in political donations and reducing the dominance of big money in elections, the Act could help ensure that elected officials are more accountable to their constituents than to their major donors.
Overall, supporters of the bill feel that it goes a long way toward expanding voting access and modernizing voter registration. There are also provisions to protect election workers, who have been increasingly under threat from extremist groups and individuals.
The main detractors of the bill see it as overreach into state’s rights. They also claim that it will allow convicted felons and undocumented immigrants to vote illegally. There is little merit and no proof to these allegations.
The Freedom to Vote Act represents a pivotal step in the ongoing effort to safeguard and strengthen democracy in the United States. By making voting more accessible and reforming campaign finance, the Act aims to create a more equitable and representative political system.
While it faces significant challenges, the importance of this legislation cannot be overstated. As debates and discussions around the bill continue, it is crucial for citizens to stay informed and engaged, recognizing that the very core of their democratic rights and responsibilities is at stake.
One of the surest ways to protect election integrity and ensure a government that works for all of us is to end establishment domination of our political processes. They have a vested interest in keeping the status quo, and Good Party is on a mission to stop them.
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