Looking for something to do on January 17 that would honor Martin Luther King, Jr.?
There are currently two voting rights bills (see below) pending in the Senate. These bills would solidify comprehensive voter protections, set up national standards for voter identification, establish protections for election officials against intimidation and partisan interference, and strengthen voting rights by expanding and strengthening the government’s ability to respond to voting discrimination.
These bills are vital to defend our democracy — critical to ensure that elections are free and fair, critical to ensure that we do not choke off our emerging multiracial democracy.
What can I do?
- Write or call your Senator urging passage of this legislation.
- ACLU online form
- Write to Governor Hogan asking him to urge lawmakers to act on this legislation.
- Write a letter to the editor. Sample letter here.
For more information:
- Human Rights Campaign
- Brennan Center for Justice
- Public Democracy America
- Congress.gov – Senate Bill 2747
- Congress.gov – House Bill 4
Freedom to Vote Act (S.2747)
Sponsor: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
9/14/21 Introduced in Senate
Summary: This bill addresses voter registration and voting access, election integrity and security, redistricting, and campaign finance. Specifically, the bill expands voter registration (e.g., automatic and same-day registration) and voting access (e.g., vote-by-mail and early voting). It also limits removing voters from voter rolls.
Next, the bill establishes Election Day as a federal holiday. The bill declares that the right of a U.S. citizen to vote in any election for federal office shall not be denied or abridged because that individual has been convicted of a criminal offense unless, at the time of the election, such individual is serving a felony sentence.
The bill establishes certain federal criminal offenses related to voting. In particular, the bill establishes a new criminal offense for conduct (or attempted conduct) to corruptly hinder, interfere with, or prevent another person from registering to vote or helping someone register to vote.Additionally, the bill sets forth provisions related to election security, including by requiring states to conduct post-election audits for federal elections. The bill outlines criteria for congressional redistricting and generally prohibits mid-decade redistricting.
The bill outlines criteria for congressional redistricting and generally prohibits mid-decade redistricting.
The bill addresses campaign finance, including by expanding the prohibition on campaign spending by foreign nationals, requiring additional disclosure of campaign-related fundraising and spending, requiring additional disclaimers regarding certain political advertising, and establishing an alternative campaign funding system for certain federal offices.
John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 (H.R.4)
Sponsor: Rep. Terri Sewell D-AL
8/17/21 Introduced in House
8/24/21 Passed House
9/14/21 Received in Senate
Summary: This bill establishes new criteria for determining which states and political subdivisions must obtain preclearance before changes to voting practices may take effect. Preclearance is the process of receiving preapproval from the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before making legal changes that would affect voting rights.
A state and all of its political subdivisions shall be subject to preclearance of voting practice changes for a 10-year period if
- 15 or more voting rights violations occurred in the state during the previous 25 years;
- 10 or more violations occurred during the previous 25 years, at least 1 of which was committed by the state itself; or
- 3 or more violations occurred during the previous 25 years and the state administers the elections.
A political subdivision as a separate unit shall also be subject to preclearance for a 10-year period if three or more voting rights violations occurred there during the previous 25 years.
States and political subdivisions that meet certain thresholds regarding minority groups must preclear covered practices before implementation, such as changes to methods of election and redistricting. Further, states and political subdivisions must notify the public of changes to voting practices.
Next, the bill authorizes DOJ to require states or political subdivisions to provide certain documents or answers to questions for enforcing voting rights.
The bill also outlines factors courts must consider when hearing challenges to voting practices, such as the extent of any history of official voting discrimination in the state or political subdivision.