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Protect the Vote. End the Filibuster

If President Biden and Democrats in Congress have any hope of enacting comprehensive, meaningful voting rights legislation, they have no choice but to end the filibuster.

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Last week Republicans blocked action for the third time this year on voting rights legislation, making it clear that unless the filibuster is killed, there will be zero chance of passing the Freedom to Vote Act, intended to counter imposition of new voting restrictions in GOP states in response to Donald Trump's "Big Lie" that the 2020 election was "stolen" from him.

Those new laws, in states like Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Texas, have included numerous restrictions on voting, including limiting voting by mail, restricting absentee ballots, toughening voter ID requirements, limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, banning unsolicited applications for voter registration, and more.

Every Republican in the Senate -- all 50 of them -- voted last week against bringing the Freedom to Vote Act to the floor vote a vote, while all 50 Democrats and independents voted in favor. That left Democrats 10 votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.

President Biden, who previously had resisted changing the filibuster, at a CNN town hall backed "fundamentally" changing it, raising hopes that he will encourage Democratic senators to support reform. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is the most publicized Democratic opponent of that change, but there are others who have expressed concern.

The Freedom to Vote Act would set federal standards for early and mail-in voting and make Election Day a national holiday so working people could more easily get to the polls. It would improve access to voting by people with disabilities and promote a national standard for states that have an identification requirement for in-person voting, allowing the use of a variety of forms of ID. That provision was added to win Manchin's support.

Other Key Provisions

The Brennan Center for Justice provides this summary of other key provisions of the Freedom to Vote Act:

  • Prohibits the dissemination of false and misleading information designed to deter eligible voters from casting a ballot. Establishes federal criminal penalties for deceiving voters and allows the attorney general to share accurate information about elections if state officials fail to do so. Increases existing penalties for voter intimidation.

  • Restores federal voting rights to formerly incarcerated citizens upon their release, establishing a federal standard to replace differing state laws.

  • Requires states to ensure voting lines last no longer than 30 minutes and restricts states from prohibiting donations of food or water to those waiting in line.

  • Bans partisan gerrymandering and establishes clear, neutral standards, while ensuring greater transparency in the process and adding judicial remedies for challenge in court.

  • Makes automatic voter registration the national standard, requiring registration to be offered at state departments of motor vehicles.

  • Requires states to offer same day registration and to allow voters to register to vote online.

  • Provides safeguards against unlawful purging of voter rolls, while allowing states to accurately maintain voter registration lists.

  • Includes a voluntary small donor matching system for elections to the House of Representatives for states that opt in.

  • Requires any entity that spends more than $10,000 in an election to disclose all major donors. Internet ads would need to clearly identify sponsors and online platforms would be required to create searchable databases of past ads and their buyers.

  • Overhauls the Federal Election Commission's enforcement process.

  • Tightens rules to keep super PACs and other outside groups independent of candidates.

  • Restricts politicized removal of election officials.

  • Enhances protections of ballots and records.

  • Requires the use of voting systems that provide voter-verified paper records and provides grants for states to purchase the necessary equipment.

  • Requires states to conduct transparent post election audits that adhere to clearly defined rules and procedures.

What is the problem with all of this?

Ask the Republicans.

Perhaps for their reasoning, we should recall something Donald Trump said in May 2020: Republicans would "never" be elected again if it was easier to vote.

In fact, that's been the position of Republicans for years.

“I don’t want everybody to vote,” Paul Weyrich, an influential conservative activist, said in 1980. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

It's time to end this cynical view of the election process. If it takes killing off the filibuster, so be it. Voting is a precious, inalienable right that must be protected, regardless. Donald Trump has been trying to take that right away as is evidenced by the January 6th insurrection.

He lost the election. America's voters must not be made to pay the price for years to come.

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