The Freedom To Vote Act

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14 mins read

Details on what’s in the new bill proposed by Senate Democrats

This week, Senate Democrats unveiled a new voting rights bill that trims down and adjusts what was previously proposed in the For the People Act, which was passed by the House in March. This post provides a detailed summary of what’s in the proposed Freedom to Vote Act.

The bill is divided into three key sections:

  1. Voter Access and Election Administration
  2. Election Integrity
  3. Civic Participation and Empowerment

Here is the full text of the bill. Each section is also broken down below.

Analysis by DemCast Staff. If you find any errors in our analysis, please email admin@demcastusa.com.

Section 1: 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.

Key Provisions include:

  • 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.
    • Allows for Pre-registration for 16 year olds
    • Includes data protection for domestic violence victims
  • 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.
    • 10 hours each weekday, with hours before 9 AM and after 5 PM
    • 8 hours each weekend day 
    • Creates exceptions for jurisdictions with under 3,000 registered voters
    • Requires polling locations to be within walking distance of public transportation
    • Requires at least 1 polling location on all college campuses
    • Requires enough machines/poll workers so that no voter waits over 30 minutes to vote 
    • Prohibits states from banning curbside voting
  • 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.
    • Prohibits requirement to send copy of ID for VBM
    • Removes witness/notarization requirements
    • Standardizes Signature Requirements for VBM Ballots and allows for ballot curing
      • If a signature is deemed a non-match (which must be verified by 2 separate election officials (one from each major party)
        • Must notify voter by mail, phone, text or email and offer them a chance to cure (which is valid for 3 days after the deadline for receiving ballots)
      • If the signature is left blank or there is another defect, the above notifications and chance to cure are applicable 
      • Requires disclosure of the total number of discarded ballots
      • Requires all states to carry out a program to track and confirm receipt of ballots
      • Requires all states to provide information on whether the ballot was accepted, or if was rejected, to provide the reason why
      • Systems must be available both online and with a toll free number
    • Allows states to start processing ballots 14 days prior to an election
    • Requires post office to process and clear ballots on the day they arrive at the post office
    • Requires all ballots have a post mark by the post office
    • No postage requirements for ballots
    • Drop Boxes
      • Requires drop boxes to be accessible 24 hours a day
      • Requires 1 drop box for every 45,000 registered voters OR 1 drop box for every 15,000 voters that voted by mail last election
  • 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.
    • Prohibits states from imposing any additional requirements to cast a provisional ballot 
  • Standards for Voter Validation: 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. Cited cards and documents in the bill:
    • State Issued ID 
    • Passport
    • Employee ID Card from state or Federal government
    • Tribal ID
    • Student ID 
    • Military ID
    • Gun License/ Concealed Carry permit
    • Medicare Card
    • Social Security Card
    • Birth Certificate
    • Voter Registration Card
    • Hunting/Fishing License
    • SNAP card
    • Bank/Debit Card
    • Utility Bill
    • Lease
    • Bank Statement
    • Health Insurance Card
  • 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.Includes protections for individuals subject to guardianship, unless a court rules otherwise 
    • Voting on Tribal Land
      • Drop boxes must be made available on Tribal Lands in consultation with the Tribal Leaders
      • Tribes can designate buildings as ballot pick up and/or collection locations 
      • Tribal Leaders can designate a building to be used as official residential addresses and mailing addresses

Section 2: 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.
    • Gives Federal Judges and AG right to intervene
    • Federal crime to harass, threaten, coerce, intimidate any election official, poll worker or poll volunteer. Conviction 5 years or $100,000 fine
  • 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.
    • Requires all votes to be cast with a voter verified paper trail
    • Prohibits any voting machine, tabulation machine be accessible to any wireless device or the internet
      • State grants available to upgrade machines
  • 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.
    • Provides grants to states for poll worker 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.
    • Requires all voting vendors to be controlled by US Citizens and assembled in the US
    • Requires all vendors to permit independent security testing by the Election Assistance Community
    • Requires certification of all poll books used in elections 
    •  Requires that by 2024 all voting machines, software or codes must be developed and manufactured in the US
  • Establishing Duty to Report Foreign Election Interference: Creates a reporting requirement for federal campaigns to disclose certain foreign contacts.
    • Includes requirements for candidates and family members to report, including parents, parent in laws, spouse, siblings and children
    • Failure to report criminal charges 5 years in prison or a $500,000 fine
  • Combats Voter Intimidation
    • Creates criminal penalties for voter intimidation (5 years in prison or $100,000 fine)
    • Prohibits deceptive practice and false statements by means of written, electronic and phone communications 
    • Creates buffer for poll observers, who cannot go with in 8 feet of any voter, processor, scanning machine or certification process
    • Prohibits states from restricting donations of food and water to any voter outside of the polling location

Section 3: 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.
    • Requires states to draw districts within communities of interest
    • Prohibits political gerrymandering
    • Any citizen can sue within 30 days of maps drawn (or within 30 days of this bill being signed into law)
      • Requires courts to hold hearings with in 15 days
    • Requires transparency when drawing maps, including: public websites, allowance for public comments, 
    • Public hearings held both before and after maps are drawn. 
    • Creates judicial review
  • 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.
    • Requires analysis after each election to determine the amount of foreign money spent to carry out disinformation/propaganda campaigns, with a report an how the success failure in the following communities
      • Rural Communities
      • Black, Minority 
      • Military/Veterans
    • Prohibits foreign money from being used for ballot initiatives
    • Prohibits the establishment of a corporation to conceal contributions 
    • Requires posting of Federal Judiciary nomination spending
    • Requires disclosure of who paid for on-line ads
      • Text of who paid for add as large as majority of text
      • For videos, text of who paid for add must appear for at least 4 seconds
    • Requires on-line companies to keep records of all purchases of over $500 in one year
    • Requires on-line platforms to display notices identifying sponsors of all political adds
  • 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.
    • Allows states to opt in to a matching fund for small donor campaign donations
  • Nonpartisan Oversight of Federal Election Law: Improves the ability of the Federal Election Commission to carry out oversight and enforcement responsibilities.
    • Extends statute of limitations for violations to 10years 
  • Stopping Illicit Super PAC Coordination: Creates “coordinated spender” category to ensure single-candidate super PACs do not operate as arms of campaigns.

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DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks, but are sustained solely on donations from grassroots supporters. Because our revenue isn’t click-driven, we don’t take in any direct revenue from the creative contributions of grassroots activists who post on the site. This sets us apart from other media sites. And we’re proud of that.

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