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January 19, 2022

After Senate Minority Blocks Voting Rights Protections, King Prepares to Put Democracy Over Filibuster

“I’ve long opposed changes to the filibuster – but there is nothing more important than ensuring all Americans can access their Constitutional right to vote.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) voted to close debate on both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, two bills he has co-sponsored to defend voting rights in the face of state-level laws that would make it harder for millions of Americans to exercise their Constitutional right to vote. The bills were blocked by a Republican filibuster – the second time that each bill had been prevented from moving forward by a GOP blockade. In his statement, Senator King emphasizes that both bills enjoy significant bipartisan support while underscoring the central role elections play in American democracy. As the Senate prepares to move forward to consider rules changes, Senator King emphasizes that “there is nothing more important than ensuring all Americans can access their Constitutional right to vote.”

“The longevity of our national experiment in self-government is no accident – it is the product of generations of Americans who dedicated themselves to an idea bigger than themselves. These leaders and citizens alike understood that the long-term benefit of a stable, functioning democracy far outweighed any short-term political interests. Elections are, and always have been, the bedrock of that democracy; as Thomas Paine said at our nation’s birth, the right to vote is the primary right by which other rights are protected," said Senator King. "We should be taking every step imaginable to protect and expand the right to vote, making it easier for every single American to have their voice heard and express their support for or against candidates and policies. Instead, 50 of my Senate colleagues prefer to keep Congress on the sidelines while partisan legislatures in states across the country enact laws designed to erect barriers between voters and the ballot box."

“The two bills that failed to reach the 60-vote threshold tonight shouldn’t be controversial – in fact, for the majority of Americans, they’re plain commonsense! The Freedom to Vote Act includes widely popular provisions such as simple and consistent voter registration standards, no-excuse absentee voting, expanded early voting opportunities, and designating Election Day as a federal holiday. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is even less controversial – when the Voting Rights Act was last reauthorized in 2006, the legislation was so popular that it passed by a unanimous vote of 98-0," continued Senator King. "These bills are not an effort to ‘federalize elections’ or anything close; they are simply efforts to create minimum standards so no state can enact laws that significantly impede American citizens from engaging in our democracy – just as the federal government creates minimum standards to protect our health, safety, environment, and more. Maine’s electoral system already includes many of these provisions, with practically no fraud – so why are other states afraid to follow our lead?"

“Polling shows that the voting rights protections contained in these bills have strong bipartisan support across the country – everywhere, it seems, except the halls of Congress. So, we are left with a decision: either allow a Senate minority to block popular voting rights protections, or adjust a Senate rule," Senator King concluded. "For me, the choice is clear. I’ve long opposed changes to the filibuster – but there is nothing more important than ensuring all Americans can access their Constitutional right to vote.”

Senator King is committed to increase voter trust and promote access to the ballot for all registered voters. In October 2021 he delivered an impassioned speech on the Senate floor urging action on voting rights, stating that we are currently “at a hinge of history” that will determine the future of the American experiment in self-government. He has recently made the argument for these bills in op-eds for the Boston Globe and TIME. In addition to the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement ActSenator King cosponsored the For the People Act and Senator Jon Ossoff’s (D-Ga.) Right to Vote Act, which would establish a first-ever statutory right to vote in federal elections — protecting U.S. citizens from laws that make it harder to cast a ballot. 

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