Despite Senate Majority Support, Voting Rights Bills Blocked by Filibuster
Majority of American voters, both Republicans and Democrats, support the Freedom to Vote Act and further voter rights legislation.
Senate to vote on Freedom to Vote Act Wednesday, October 20th.
Senate Republicans plan to filibuster in order to block the Freedom to Vote Act.
A Year of Restrictive Voting Laws
In 2021, 33 restrictive voter laws were passed in various states across the country, limiting options to vote and undermining local elections officials’ ability to mind elections. Georgia’s law, SB 202, criminalized handing out water to voters standing in long lines. Texas’ SB.1 would have election officials face prosecution for regulating poll watchers’ inappropriate behavior in the polling place.
Protecting Americans’ Right to Vote
In response to the influx in restrictive voting legislation, Congress introduced two voter rights bills: Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would make illegal voting rules that discriminate on the basis of race, language, or ethnicity and empower voters’ to challenge discriminatory laws.
The Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747) is currently in the Senate and would solidify comprehensive voter protections, including a minimum of 15 days for early voting, mail-in ballots, and making Election Day a national holiday.
The bill would set up national standards for voter identification. The bill would also establish protections for election officials against intimidation and partisan interference. To further ensure election integrity, the Freedom to Vote Act would require states to use voting systems with a verifiable paper trail and establish national standards for voter identification.
These bills have broad support from the public. A new poll found that 54 to 64 percent of voters support the Freedom to Vote Act and its passing with a simple majority. Another poll conducted by Data for Progress, which broke down results across party affiliation, found that both a majority of Republicans and Democrats support the bill.
Filibuster Dooms Popular Voter Rights Legislation
Despite Senate Majority and overwhelming public support for the bills, both are expected to be filibustered by the Senate Minority, killing the bill and the hope of ending voter suppression and election subversion by states’ partisan politics.
Overcoming a filibuster requires a near impossible 60 vote supermajority, effectively giving the Senate minority pocket veto power of any bill they dislike. This has caused many leaders on both sides of the aisle to call for an end to the filibuster.
In the coming weeks, it will be up to the Democratic led Senate Majority to decide to vote on ending the filibuster, a political weapon historically used by the minority. In the near term, this change would allow meaningful legislation on voter rights to be passed, and in the long term, ending the filibuster—or at least modifying it—would strengthen Congress’ ability to pass needed legislation in a timely manner.