This is the first in a five-part series educating the public about the benefits of passing the For the People Act.
Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual — or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.”Samuel Adams, The Boston Gazette, on April 16, 1781
If you’ve been following the news you know that there have been over 360 bills introduced in state legislatures intended to create barriers to voting. But there is a way to fight for our freedom to vote. You can join the effort to enact the For the People Act (FTPA), a bill that will ensure that every American has the ability to cast a free and fair vote. This bill is the culmination of a struggle for the equitable right to vote that can be traced back to this country’s inception. The FTPA has already passed in the House of Representatives where it was labeled HR 1. A similar bill, known as S 1, is now pending in the Senate.
This week DemCast will be focusing on educating the public about the benefits of this bill and the urgent need to pass it in order to protect our democracy. Today we are going to look at how the For the People Act will protect the freedom to vote.
Keeping people from registering has long been a strategy employed by racists to prevent Black people from casting their ballots equally. FTPA will require states to offer various ways for voters to register including online, automatic and same day registration. These provisions will enable all Americans to have a voice in our elections. FTPA will also require states to allow future voters age 16 and older to pre-register to vote in federal elections once they turn 18. This means that on the day they turn 18, they can cast their vote.
Another tactic some states use to restrict voting is to purge the voter rolls. The For the People Act puts limits on states’ use of data compiled through interstate cross-checks, which is a system that reviews voter registrations to see if people are registered in more than one state. If a voter is found to be duplicated, some states use that as a reason to purge eligible voters from the rolls. In addition, FTPA would prohibit “voter caging.” This practice includes sending mail to people on the voter rolls, then compiling a list of the mail that is returned undelivered, and using that list to purge or challenge voters’ registrations.
This historic legislation will also protect the freedom to vote by prohibiting challenges to an individual’s eligibility to participate in a federal election within 10 days of Election Day, unless they registered to vote within 20 days of the election. It will restore federal voting rights to Americans who are disenfranchised due to a previous criminal conviction. Voters also will have the opportunity to correct any errors on their paper ballots before their votes are cast.
What else does the FTPA do? It’s hard to believe that in this country people actually try to prevent voters from casting their ballots by lying about facts relevant to the election, but it does happen. To prevent this unpatriotic and immoral practice, the For the People Act prohibits intentional communication of false and misleading information — including about the time, place, or manner of elections, public endorsements, and the rules governing voter eligibility and voter registration — made with the intent of preventing eligible voters from casting ballots.
In answer to some of the most egregious policies in the state bills, the FTPA requires states to allow at least two weeks of early voting for federal elections (including weekends). Polls must be open for at least ten hours per day, including some early morning and evening hours. In answer to efforts to curb casting ballots by mail, which was so important in 2020, this bill requires states to allow any eligible voter to vote by mail in federal elections (known as “no-excuse absentee voting”).
One of the most important provisions of the For the People act relates to indigenous peoples, who have routinely been left off voter rolls. This bill allows Native American tribes to designate buildings as ballot pickup and collection locations and requires states to provide language-accessible mail-in ballots to people who live on tribal lands without requiring residential addresses. This will be a game changer for these communities, many of whom have been kept from participating in elections because they lacked an address.
As you can see, the For The People Act does a great deal to protect Americans’ freedom to vote. Please share this information with your friends and family. It is not an overstatement to say that if this bill doesn’t pass, we could lose our democracy.
“We will see if our Republican friends join us. If they don’t join us, our caucus will come together and decide the appropriate action to take. Failure is not an option.” —Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
All this week DemCast is focusing on educating the public about the benefits of the For the People Act and the urgent need to pass the bill in order to protect our democracy. To catch up on all articles, just click the links.
- Tuesday: Ending Partisan and Racial Gerrymandering
- Wednesday: Getting Big Money Out of Politics
- Thursday: Election Security
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