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ICYMI: Senator Murray Pushes for Swift Action on New Voting Rights Bill – MORE HERE

Senator Murray: “As I have said time and again—we must pass strong federal voting rights protections into law—because doing so is essential to making sure our democracy stays a democracy”

WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S SPEECH HERE 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), spoke on the Senate floor encouraging her colleagues to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, which is expected to be voted on in the Senate this week. The bill would protect access to the ballot box for Americans in the face of restrictive voting laws being passed by Republican state governments across the country.

“Of all the critical things we’ll vote on this Congress—and many are so important to workers and families—this is the most important,” said Senator Murray. “It’s about the future of our democracy. And if our Republican colleagues aren’t willing to stand up for our democracy, we can’t let them hide behind Senate rules and block Democrats from doing so on our own. The stakes are simply too high to fail—one way or another, the Senate must pass the Freedom to Vote Act.”

The bill includes three sections, each intended to protect the right to vote and strengthen our democracy. Bill text can be found here

Voter Access and Election Administration 

This section includes provisions to advance 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. 

  • 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.
  • Election Day Holiday: Makes Election Day a public holiday.
  • Uniform Early Voting: Ensures voters have access to at least 15 consecutive days 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 2022 elections and at all polling locations by 2024, allowing election officials, especially in rural areas, time to implement the new requirements.
  • 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. 

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. 

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. 

Senator Murray is determined to make sure the Senate can act on voting rights, and has consistently stated that federal voting rights protections are a top priority for her, telling KUOW earlier this summer that the For the People Act was, “the most important” bill the Senate would vote on this Congress. In March, Murray also announced her support for an exemption to the filibuster on voting rights protections, telling the Spokesman-Review, “the For the People Act is essential to making sure our democracy stays a democracy and I will consider every legislative option, including an exemption to the filibuster, to ensure it can be signed into law.”

See below Senator Murray’s speech as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you M. President.

“I rise today in defense of the most sacred right we have in this country—the right to vote.

“This right is fundamental to our democracy.

“It is the right to make your voice heard in government.

“But this right is under attack by ultra-conservative state lawmakers who are restricting access to the ballot box.

“The same people who continue to cast unserious, baseless, and dangerous doubts on the results of the 2020 election.

“I am not being hyperbolic when I say: if these attacks succeed, there will be grave consequences for our democratic system not just in those states, but throughout our country.

“So as I have said time and again—we must pass strong federal voting rights protections into law—because doing so is essential to making sure our democracy stays a democracy.

“Democrats are rightfully exploring every potential avenue to ensure Americans’ fundamental right to vote is not restricted.

“We are voting on legislation this week, the Freedom to Vote Act, that has been the result of extended negotiations and discussions, and I appreciate my colleagues working to craft a bill all of us can agree to—one that: ensures voters have equal access to the ballot box, promotes best practices for voter registration and administration, and protects our elections from very real threats of interference, both foreign and domestic.

“This is a reasonable bill by any stretch of the imagination. I challenge anyone to tell me what could be controversial about making Election Day a public holiday, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to vote early, making sure everyone can request a vote-by-mail ballot—M. President, these are simple measures to ensure every American can make their voice heard

“I’m glad this bill includes protections that will help give power back to the people in our government, by making sure people pick their representatives, rather than representatives picking their voters, by stopping special interest money from drowning out Americans’ voices and votes, and by protecting and securing each American citizen’s right to cast their ballot.

“Again, nothing in this bill should be controversial if you care about the health of our democracy.

“So I hope my Republican colleagues will join us in supporting it.

“I strongly believe protecting every American’s right to vote should not be a partisan issue.

“And my Republican colleagues have a chance this week to inspire confidence in our elections and make sure they are secure by voting for this common-sense legislation.

“But if  they instead want to stand between voters and their due right to the ballot box—we cannot as public servants simply throw up our hands and say ‘oh well, we tried.’

“So if Republicans choose to look the other way on implementing federal voting rights protections because voter suppression tactics benefit them politically, Democrats must use every legislative tool needed to get the Freedom to Vote Act to President Biden’s desk—including an exemption to the filibuster.

“Because as I’ve said, M. President.

“Of all the critical things we’ll vote on this Congress, and many are so important to workers and families, this is the most important.

“It’s about the future of our democracy.

“And if our Republican colleagues aren’t willing to stand up for our democracy, we can’t let them hide behind Senate rules and block Democrats from doing so on our own.

“The stakes are simply too high to fail—one way or another, the Senate must pass the Freedom to Vote Act.

“Thank you.”

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