Senator Chuck Schumer has shifted his attention to federalizing voting rights with his proposed Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747). The bill was introduced on Sept. 14, 2021, by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
Schumer is so serious about federalizing elections that he had Biden stumping on his behalf in Atlanta, Georgia. President Biden told the audience on Tuesday:
“I support changing the Senate rules, whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking actions on voting rights.”
He, like Schumer, invoked the events of Jan. 6 as a basis for the need to reform the election process. Democrats lost some key battles this past year due to disagreement in the ranks and noticeable left-leaning shifts in the make-up of the party.
Senator Manchin of West Virginia crushed Democrats’ dreams of passing the Build Back Better Act because “he couldn’t explain it” to the voters at home. Those negotiations have now gone behind closed doors. Schumer knows he has to pull out all the stops with his push to table the filibuster so he can get his voting act passed.
According to the Sentinel Nation Newsletter from the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, the Freedom to Vote Act is a second pass at the For the People Act as it “contains numerous of the same provisions.” The For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1) was Speaker Pelosi’s “signature legislation.” Because the bill was stopped by the filibuster, efforts were made during the summer to force pieces of the bill through various states.
Heritage Foundation’s SaveOurElections.com website explains the history of the filibuster and why nuking the filibuster would be critical to advance “Schumer’s plan to put D.C. bureaucrats in charge of our elections.” The Sentinel Nation Newsletter reads:
“After the vote on S. 2747 fails, it is expected that Sen. Schumer will move to make the case that the filibuster needs to be “reformed” or done away with as a whole. In order for Senate Democrats to change or do away with the filibuster, that requires using the “nuclear option,” or for the Democrats to change Senate rules using only Democrat votes. Read more from Heritage’s Tom Jipping on what invoking the “nuclear option” would mean.
Invoking the nuclear option would destroy the institution of the Senate itself. The Constitution designed the Senate to be the chamber that required greater buy-in from the entire body of members. Protecting the filibuster means protecting the voices of millions of Americans. Nuking the filibuster is a real threat to our Republic.”
Heritage Action breaks down Schumer’s plan for his law and the filibuster in two short videos here and here.
Schumer’s Dear Colleague Letter
In his Jan. 3 “Dear Colleague” letter, Schumer lays out his case, invoking the events of Jan. 6 as a basis for the necessity of election reform at the federal level. He opens with the following:
“One year ago this week, we experienced great sorrow: mere hours after the dawn of a new Congress and a new Majority, our beloved Capitol was attacked. It was attacked in a naked attempt to derail our Republic’s most sacred tradition: the peaceful transfer of power. Domestic violent extremists sought to inflict chaos and violence. Fueled by conspiracy and the ravings of a vengeful former President, they sought to destroy our Republic.
Our democracy held—for now.”
Schumer states that Jan. 6 proves there is “an effort to delegitimize our election process, and the Senate must advance systemic democracy reforms to repair our republic.”
What is in the Freedom to Vote Act?: The Brennan Center
Let’s take a look at the fact sheet detailing the bill’s proposed measures from the liberal-leaning Brennan Center:
- Expanded voting access as an overarching goal.
- Ballots outside voter’s precinct must be counted.
- Mail-in voting- prohibiting things like the imposition of
“onerous requirements like requiring mail ballots to be
- Election Day is a holiday.
- Voter validation which allows for a wide variety of IDs. States that don’t have the requirement are not required to have one.
- Expansion of early voting hours, “requiring all 50 states to offer early voting periods for at least two weeks prior to Election Day, including on nights and weekends, for at least 10 hours per day (except for jurisdictions with fewer than 3,000 voters).” Access within walking distance for voters.
- “Restores federal voting rights to formerly incarcerated citizens upon their release, establishing a bright-line standard to replace the confusing patchwork of state laws and removing the vestiges of restrictions born out of Jim Crow.“
- Makes sure lines are short, no longer than 30 minutes wait.
- Creates “cause of action clause,” allowing voters to sue if their constitutional right to vote is infringed upon.
- Penalties for voter intimidation. Can’t remove poll worker for political reasons.
- “Remedy for failure to certify results: The bill’s cause of action for infringement of the right to vote would allow an individual to bring a lawsuit challenging not only the violation of their right to cast a ballot but also their right to have that ballot counted and certified. This would allow voters to sue in the event of an unreasonable failure to certify election results or other efforts to set aside a valid election outcome.“
- Bans on gerrymandering, targeting “communities of color.” “Redistricting committees” instituted.
- Modernizes voter registration. Makes automatic voter registration (AVR) the national standard. 19 states and D.C. already have it. AVR must be offered at state DMVs.
- Same-day voter registration the standard. 20 states and D.C. already have it.
- Requires the allowance of online voter registration. 42 states and D.C. already have it.
- Campaign finance reform provisions, ensuring super PACs are “truly independent.” Promotes a small donor matching system for elections to the House for states that choose to opt-in. “The program would be paid for exclusively through a new state Election Assistance and Innovation Fund, which does not rely on taxpayer dollars. (States choosing not to opt-in to the matching system could use funds for other election improvements.).“
- Proposes publicly funded campaigns. Yes, tax dollars for campaigns.
- Election Security—requires post-election audits. Requires paper records and election infrastructure improvements, specifically, “The bill requires states to replace old, paperless electronic voting machines with voting systems that provide voter-verified paper records and provides grants for states to purchase more secure voting systems.“
What Is In The Freedom To Vote Act?: Citizens For Renewing America
The conservative-leaning Citizens for Renewing America website offers its counterpunch perspective on the Act in a one-page summary below. Their perspective makes it clear that federalizing elections will “consolidate power in the hands of an elite political class.” Founder Russ Vought was the director of the Office of Management and Budget from July 2020 to January 2021 during the Trump administration. The organization’s policy brief on the bill can be found here.
During Tuesday’s speeches in Atlanta, it appears that President Biden and VP Harris were not entirely forthcoming with their assessment of the election process or the filibuster. Two legal fellows from the Heritage Foundation outline where the alleged falsehoods lie. Even CNN knows Biden wasn’t entirely truthful when he referenced the new election law in Georgia.