September 14, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S Senator Angus King Jr. (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Rules Committee, joined seven of his Senate colleagues to introduce the Freedom to Vote Act, legislation to improve access to the ballot for Americans and advance common-sense election integrity reforms. The legislation – which incorporates many crucial reforms from prior bills – reflects feedback that state and local election officials made in recent months to ensure the local authorities directly responsible for implementing reforms are able to do so effectively. It also elevates the voices of American voters by ending partisan gerrymandering and helping to eliminate the undue influence of secret money in our elections.
“Any threat to the democratic process is a threat to democracy itself,” said Senator King. “In the face of state-level threats that undercut the fundamental right to vote for millions of Americans, we must act now to protect our democracy. Our bill would set commonsense minimum standards to ensure that no state infringes upon its citizens’ right to vote and confront widespread anti-democratic practices such as partisan gerrymandering and dark money spending. Free, fair and open elections are the backbone of our national commitment to government of the people, by the people, and for the people – and through this legislation, we will do our part to pass this experiment in self-government on to the next generation of Americans.”
“The freedom for all Americans to vote is foundational to our democracy,” said Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows. “Mainers can be proud that some of the provisions that make our elections accessible and inclusive — same day voter registration and paper ballots for example — will be in place across the country under this bill.”
The Freedom to Vote Act is also supported by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jon Tester (D-Mt.), and Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).
Senator King is committed to increase voter trust and engagement in our democracy through elections. In addition to co-sponsoring S.1, the For the People Act, Senator King recently cosponsored 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. He has also reintroduced the Real Time Transparency Act, which would require that all political contributions of $1,000 or more be filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) within 48 hours, and again cosponsored the Sunlight for Unaccountable Non-Profits (SUN) Act, which would require the IRS to publish the names of any donors who give more than $5,000 to tax-exempt political organizations. In February, Senator King cosponsored the Spotlight Act, which aims to identify the dark money political donors that seek to influence political debate anonymously.
This bill includes three sections, each intended to protect the right to vote and strengthen our democracy. Bill text can be found here.
I. 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.
· 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.
· 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.
· 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.
· 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.
· Standards for Voter Identification: Promotes voter confidence and access by requiring a uniform national standard for states that requires identification for in-person voting, and allowing voters to present a broad set of identification cards and documents in hard copy and digital form.
· 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.
II. 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.
· 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.
· 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.
· 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.
· Establishing Duty to Report Foreign Election Interference: Creates a reporting requirement for federal campaigns to disclose certain foreign contacts.
III. 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.
· 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.
· 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.
· Nonpartisan Oversight of Federal Election Law: Improves the ability of the Federal Election Commission to carry out oversight and enforcement responsibilities.
· Stopping Illicit Super PAC Coordination: Creates “coordinated spender” category to ensure single-candidate super PACs do not operate as arms of campaigns.