Things You Should Know About the Freedom to Vote Act
The Freedom to Vote Act incorporates measures to combat election sabotage and ensure fair representation. It provides states with various national standards for early voting, vote-by-mail, voter registration, and heightened protections for election workers against partisan intimidation.
It also restores and updates the full protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
It Requires Fair Redistricting
The Constitution and federal courts require states to redistrict their electoral districts to ensure each voter has the same opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. However, some states use racially discriminatory maps to deny Black voters this fundamental right, and even those that don’t still use them in ways that undermine the core purpose of the Voting Rights Act.
The Freedom to Vote Act would end these partisan gerrymanders by requiring that states consider voters’ racial and geographic diversity in drawing their district maps. It also requires that states establish a process for public participation in redistricting and set precise criteria for when a map violates the Constitution.
Additionally, the bill expands FEC reporting requirements to include online political ads and increases penalties for violations of campaign finance laws. And it provides for a speedy judicial process to address bad maps already used in the 2022 elections, preventing courts from delaying this issue until after the election and making it easier to challenge discriminatory maps. The bill also strengthens the anti-corruption provisions of the Constitution and prohibits state officials from accepting gifts from foreign governments in exchange for official acts.
It Ends Partisan Gerrymandering
The Freedom to Vote Act establishes a robust, statutory ban on partisan gerrymandering in congressional districting. It fills a gap left by a 2019 Supreme Court decision that federal courts lack the power to review partial gerrymandering claims.
The bill requires states to draw congressional districts in a nonpartisan manner and bars the use of metrics designed to produce an unjustifiable partisan advantage. It also mandates that the U.S. Attorney General sue to enforce this statutory requirement. It provides a streamlined legal process for individuals to bring a partial gerrymandering claim in court.
It also restores the duty for groups to disclose donors who spend more than a thousand dollars on electioneering communications, including those that name a candidate. And it expands the categories of activities that could trigger a group to disclose its donors and make it easier for the FEC to investigate and prosecute violations. Finally, the bill centralizes appeals of redistricting decisions in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals so that three-judge panels can resolve these cases more expeditiously than they currently do.
It Ends Voter Suppression
The right to vote is the cornerstone of democracy and must be protected. But too many eligible Americans have been kept from voting by voter I.D. laws, disenfranchisement of ex-felons, and other forms of suppression. We need to ensure that every citizen has access to the ballot box and can vote for the candidates who best reflect their needs, values, and aspirations.
To do so, the Freedom to Vote Act provides standardized federal guidelines for election administration and voting rights, including expanded early voting, protections for vote-by-mail, and restoration of voting rights for ex-felons. It also shines a light on dark money by requiring entities that spend more than a thousand dollars in an election cycle to disclose the names of the beneficial owners behind those expenditures.
While the bill has scaled back some of the most critical aspects of the For the People Act to reach a compromise with Senate Republicans and election administrators, it includes essential reforms that will help get big money out of politics, protect voting rights, and prevent corruption by imposing new standards on state officials and candidates. It also ensures that voters’ votes are counted accurately, requiring individual, durable, voter-verifiable paper ballots.
It Requires a Verifiable Paper Trail
A paper audit trail is the best way to ensure voters’ intent and protect against tampering. Paperless Direct Recording Election (DRE) systems are vulnerable to hacking because they don’t create a backup record of each vote cast. At the 2018 DEF CON hacking convention, a computer scientist could tamper with a DRE machine by changing one of the redundancies and making it appear that every vote for one candidate had been switched to their opponent.
The Freedom to Vote Act would require that all states use individual, voter-verifiable, durable paper ballots to be scanned and counted and kept as the official record of each franchise. It also extends existing federal prohibitions on intimidation, threats, and coercion to include people working at polling places, including those processing, scanning, tabulating, canvassing, and certifying votes.
The Freedom to Vote Act is more than just a reformulation of the For the People Act. It sets national standards that supersede more restrictive state voting rules and makes challenging laws that unduly burden voting rights easier.
It Requires a Voter ID
The Freedom to Vote Act sets fair national standards that ensure everyone can cast their ballot without interference from discriminatory state laws and provides the legal tools to fight against these laws. The bill will require states to offer automatic voter registration through their DMV; allow voters to use government documents that contain their name for voting validation; and provide free, no-excuse mail-in voting with postage-prepaid and accessible drop boxes.
The bill will also ban partisan gerrymandering, establish solid and neutral rules for redistricting and strengthen protections for communities of color. It will require a verifiable paper trail for all votes, giving election systems heightened security protections. And it will prohibit the payment of voters not to vote and extend existing prohibitions on intimidation of election workers, including people who are processing, scanning, or tabulating ballots or canvassing, certifying, and verifying votes.
The League supports the bill, and we are hopeful it will advance through the Senate to be voted on by the entire body. It will be critical that the legislation earns the support of ten Senate Republicans to avoid a Republican filibuster and ensure it is in place before the new federal elections.