Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage

Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage
© Greg Nash

Hours after introducing a pared-down voting rights bill, Democratic senators in support of the legislation called for Senate action in the coming weeks.

Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThis week: Democrats face mounting headaches Klobuchar: 'It is evil to make it deliberately hard for people to vote' Democrats push to shield election workers from violent threats   MORE (D-Minn.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDemocrats revive filibuster fight over voting rights bill Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise MORE (D-Ore.) and Alex PadillaAlex PadillaSenate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Democrats revive filibuster fight over voting rights bill Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage MORE (D-Calif.) joined voting rights groups outside the Capitol in an effort to rally support for the measure, which faces an uphill battle to win over the 10 Republicans needed to avoid a filibuster.

“We will take our democracy back again from those who are trying to take away people's constitutional rights to vote,” Klobuchar said Tuesday afternoon at a press conference organized by a coalition of voting rights groups known as the Declaration for American Democracy.

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The legislation, known as the Freedom to Vote Act, includes many of the policy priorities Democrats packed in the For the People Act that was blocked by Senate Republicans earlier this year.

The new bill has support from numerous Democrats including moderate Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit Overnight Health Care — Presented by Indivior —Pfizer: COVID-19 vaccine safe for young kids MORE (D-W.Va.), who is one of the lead co-sponsors, along with other caucus members like Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? MORE (D-Va.), Angus KingAngus KingRep. Tim Ryan becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise MORE (I-Maine) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Polls open in California as Newsom fights for job MORE (D-Mont.).

Merkley said the bill would have the backing of all 50 caucus members.

The measure would give all voters access to a minimum of 15 early voting days and same-day registration. It also would make Election Day a federal holiday.

Additionally, it would require states to have automatic voter registration and restore the right to vote to Americans with felony convictions upon completion of their prison sentence.

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States would be prohibited from gerrymandering congressional districts with the intent of “materially favoring or disfavoring any political party,” according to the bill text.

In addition to the Freedom to Vote Act, Democrats are also hoping for Senate passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that passed the House before the summer recess.

“We need both,” Padilla said on Tuesday.

Democrats argue the bills are necessary to combat new voting laws at the state level. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 30 laws across 18 states have been passed this year that restrict access to the ballot box.

Democrats say the wave of voting restrictions stem largely from what they call former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE's “big lie” — the repeated false claim that widespread voter fraud cost him the election in November.

Merkley on Tuesday said his goal is to get the Freedom to Vote Act passed within the next six weeks, though finding the 10 GOP votes needed to overcome the Senate filibuster will be a steep challenge for Democrats.

Many Republican lawmakers have said the new state-level bills are needed to bolster election integrity. They’ve also argued that Democrats’ proposed voting rights bills are a partisan attempt to federalize elections.

While nixing the filibuster or creating an exception for voting rights legislation would otherwise be an option for Senate Democrats to sidestep GOP opposition, Manchin and other moderates such as Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaDemocrats reject hardball tactics against Senate parliamentarian  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration This week: Democrats face mounting headaches MORE (D-Ariz.) oppose any kind of filibuster reform.