The Freedom to Vote Act
The Freedom to Vote Act will improve ballot access for Americans, end partisan gerrymandering, stop dark money, and limit the influence of special interest money in politics. If enacted, it will be the most significant anti-corruption and voting rights bill in generations.
The Freedom to Vote Act is essential to restoring the public’s faith in our democratic institutions and ensuring everyone’s voice and vote is heard, counted, and protected. These common sense reforms will restore our democracy and benefit all Americans, whether you voted for Joe Biden or Donald Trump. By giving everyone a voice, we will be able to make progress on big issues, like health care and prescription drug costs and building an economy that works for everyone.
Voter Access and Election Administration
The Freedom to Vote Act will ensure every American can easily exercise their freedom to vote, regardless of where they live. Policies include:
- Ensure every American has access to secure, convenient voting practices: The bill will enact automatic voter registration for each state, ensure access to early voting, set guidelines for vote-by-mail, and require same-day voter registration.
- Voting Rights Restoration for Returning Citizens: The Freedom to Vote Act will restore the right to vote in federal elections for people who have served their time for felony convictions after they have served their time and are released from incarceration.
- Expanded Voting Access Protections for the Disabled, Native Americans, Military, Overseas Voters, and Underserved Communities: The bill includes targeted protections to promote accessible voting to communities facing unique challenges.
Ending Corruption, Stopping Dark Money, Civic Participation and Empowerment
Ending partisan gerrymandering and reducing the influence of money in politics are key to ensuring everyone’s voice can be heard in the political process. Policies include:
- Ending partisan gerrymandering: The Freedom to Vote Act sets specific criteria for Congressional redistricting, while allowing states to choose how to develop redistricting plans, including the option of independent commissions.
- Ending dark money in politics: The Freedom to Vote Act includes both the DISCLOSE Act and the Honest Ads Act which will require groups that spend money on politics to disclose their top donors and ensure that political ads sold online have the same transparency and disclosure requirements as broadcast ads.
- Strengthens federal oversight of our campaign finance system: The bill improves the FEC’s ability to carry out and enforce our laws.
- Allows states to create small-donor matching programs for House races: Paid for through fees on federal fines on certain tax crimes and corporate malfeasance, the Freedom to Vote Act will provide states funding to create small-donor matching fund programs for House races and invest in other democracy innovations.
Protecting Election Integrity
The Freedom to Vote Act will protect the integrity of our elections by stopping partisan election subversion and guarding against election interference. Policies include:
- Prevents State Election Subversion: The bill establishes federal protections to insulate nonpartisan state and local officials who administer federal elections from undue partisan interference or control.
- Voting System Security and Protections: The Freedom to Vote Act requires stages to use voter-verified paper ballots, sets standards for post-election audits, provides grants for states to upgrade their election systems, and puts in place security requirements for voting systems.
- Establishes a “duty to report” for foreign election interference: The bill creates a reporting requirement for federal campaigns to disclose foreign offers of campaign assistance.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act
The freedom to vote is under attack with an intensity we haven’t seen since the Jim Crow era. Following the Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder decision in 2013, self-serving politicians and dark money groups immediately began passing laws that restrict voting, especially for voters of color. That assault on the freedom to vote has intensified since then, and this year alone, there have been 33 anti-voter laws passed in 19 states that will restrict access to the ballot box.
If the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act had been in place, many of these new restrictive voting laws would not be allowed to go into effect. The bill will protect voters from discrimination and ensure access to the ballot no matter who you are or where you live.
Specifically, the bill will restore the full power of the Voting Rights Act by:
- Establishing new review and approval criteria for preventing racial discrimination in voting;
- Requiring federal review of specific voting practices known to have been used to discriminate against voters of color;
- Mandating greater nationwide transparency of voting law and policy changes;
- Reinforcing voters’ ability to challenge racial discrimination in court;
- Allowing voters of color to challenge voting changes that worsen their position;
- Giving the U.S. Department of Justice more authority to investigate voting rights violations;
- Expanding courts’ roles in protecting voting rights;
- Expanding the federal observer program.
The Senate-introduced John Lewis VRAA (S. 4) incorporates the Frank Harrison, Elizabeth Peratrovich, and Miguel Trujillo Native American Voting Rights Act (NAVRA) of 2021 led by Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS), and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). Key provisions of NAVRA 2021 include:
- Creating state-level Native American Voting Task Forces;
- Streamlining the process for adding polling places on tribal lands;
- Providing much needed uniformity for voting on tribal lands in federal elections;
- Requiring the acceptance of tribally or federally issued IDs, if ID is required;
- Providing culturally appropriate language assistance;
- Permitting tribes to designate buildings to be used as addresses to register to vote.
To ensure that voters are protected from future attacks on their freedom to vote, the Senate must do whatever it takes to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (S. 4) and cannot allow loopholes or procedures to stand in the way.