52 Senators allow filibuster to block Freedom to Vote Act, despite a majority of voters supporting the bill
Majority of American voters, both Republicans and Democrats, support the Freedom to Vote Act and further voter rights legislation.
After Democrats brought the bill to the floor for debate, Senate Republicans deployed the filibuster to block it.
Senators considered a carve out reform to force Republicans to use a talking filibuster to try to prevent a final vote, but 52 Senators (every Republican Senator and 2 Democrats) refused the carve-out reform.
The Senate's failure to reform the filibuster allowed Republicans to prevent a final vote on the Freedom to Vote Act, which would have passed with every Democratic Senator's support.
A Year of Restrictive Voting Laws
In 2021, 52 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’ Freedom 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 Advancement 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) which was blocked in the Senate would have solidified 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 have set up national standards for voter identification. The bill would have also established protections for election officials against intimidation and partisan interference. To further ensure election integrity, the Freedom to Vote Act would have required states to use voting systems with a verifiable paper trail and establish national standards for voter identification.
The Freedom to Vote Act has 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 Blocks the Freedom to Vote
Overcoming a filibuster requires a near impossible 60 vote supermajority, effectively giving the Senate minority pocket veto power of any bill they dislike, including voting rights legislation.
Despite Senate Majority and overwhelming public support for the Freedom to Vote Act, it was filibustered by the Senate Minority, killing the bill and the hope of establishing strong voter protections in all 50 states.
Though the Senate Majority considered reforming the filibuster to require a vote instead of endless debate, every Senate Republican and 2 Democrats failed their voters by voting against filibuster reform.
By failing to reform the filibuster, the Senate has weakened Congress' ability to pass needed legislation in a timely manner. Because the Senate did not consider filibuster reform to require open debate, the Senate will continue using the secret filibuster to undermine the will of the majority in America by blocking majority-supported legislation like the Freedom to Vote Act.
This has real consequences in the lives of hard-working Americans and many will feel the sting of the lack of national voting rights protections. In response, organizations are already taking action to organize voters and connect them with resources to overcome barriers that affect their freedom to vote.