WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats will bring forward a clean-lined voting rights bill on Tuesday that has the support of progressives and centrists in a bid to present a united front against deep Republican resistance to new legislation setting electoral standards for the nationwide.
The measure is the result of weeks of party negotiations overseen by Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat and majority leader, and was built on principles put forward by Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the only Democrat to resist a precedent, much more sweeping legislation called For The People Act. Yet like this measure, he faces a strong chance in the Senate, where he is unlikely to persuade Republicans to drop their opposition to legislation which they say is blatantly overbroad and an existential threat to their party.
The new bill, called the Freedom to Vote Act, removes some contentious elements from that original bill, such as the restructuring of the Federal Election Commission. It has a strong focus on ensuring access to the ballot following new voting restrictions enacted across the country by Republican legislatures since the 2020 election. And that would set a national standard for voter identification – what to do with it. something many Democrats vehemently opposed – but one that would be far less onerous than some states have attempted to impose, allowing voters to meet the requirement with a variety of ID cards and paper documents. and in digital form.
The revised measure would also require states to allow at least 15 consecutive days of early voting, including two weekends; ensure that all voters can apply to vote by post; establish new automatic voter registration programs and make Election Day a national holiday. The legislation would require states to follow specific criteria when establishing new constituency lines in Congress and force disclosure of donors to so-called black money groups.
“After the 2020 election in which more Americans voted than ever before, we have seen unprecedented attacks on our democracy in states across the country,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Democrat from Minnesota who leads the rules committee, which is responsible for overseeing the elections. “These attacks demand an immediate federal response.”
Mr Manchin had opposed the original legislation and proposed elements of a bill he would support, prompting negotiations between him, Ms Klobuchar and fellow Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tim Kaine from Virginia, Jon Tester from Montana, Alex Padilla from California and Raphael Warnock from Georgia. Senator Angus King, independent from Maine, also attended.
While Democrats applauded the deal, they also acknowledged that they were very unlikely to attract enough Republican support to break an obstruction against a ballot bill, meaning they should unite. to force a change in Senate rules governing obstruction if the legislation were to have any chance of passage. Republicans have blocked debate on a voting rights measure twice before.
“We have to be honest about the facts,” Schumer said on Monday, saying he would try to break the deadlock again next week. “The Republicans’ war on democracy has only gotten worse in recent weeks.”
Despite his support for the legislation, Manchin has repeatedly reiterated his refusal to abolish the filibuster, although he has also indicated his willingness to consider some changes. Mr Schumer noted on Monday that Mr Manchin had reached out to Republicans to persuade them to support the new version of the voting rights bill.
Democrats hope the Republican opposition will continue to an extent that Mr Manchin is now invested in, as one of the leading authors softens his opposition to weakening the filibuster, allowing his party to push forward a measure they see as crucial to countering new voting restrictions in Republican-led elections. States.
Mr Manchin did not mention the filibuster in a statement strongly endorsing the new proposal.
“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and the free vote law is a step in the right direction to protect this right for every American,” said Mr. Manchin. “As elected officials, we also have an obligation to restore people’s confidence in our democracy, and I think the common sense provisions of this bill – like the flexible voter identification requirements – will do exactly that. “