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Senate Democrats unveil compromise bill on voting rights

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WASHINGTON — A group of eight Senate Democrats introduced new voting rights legislation Tuesday after reaching a compromise with moderate Sen. Joe Manchin on the bill, which focuses on expanding voter access, boosting election integrity and encouraging civil participation.

The bill, dubbed the "Freedom to Vote Act," contains a long list of provisions that includes making Election Day a public holiday, requiring same-day registration at all polling locations by 2024, and ensuring at least 15 days of early voting for federal elections.

House Democrats have previously passed two other voting bills, the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act along party lines, but the legislation did not advance in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday on the Senate floor that he intends to hold a vote to proceed to the compromise measure as early as next week, which would require 60 senators to support advancing to the bill. It's unclear whether Democrats can garner the support of 10 Republicans, though Schumer said that Manchin has been discussing the bill with GOP senators.

"This is a good proposal, and I encourage all my Senate colleagues to support it," Schumer said, adding that "time is of the essence."

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said Monday evening on MSNBC that the bill "will have the support of every Democrat and Joe [Manchin] will be working to solicit the support of Republicans.”

Manchin said Tuesday that the legislation is a “step in the right direction” toward protecting every American’s right to vote.

“As elected officials, we also have an obligation to restore peoples' faith in our Democracy, and I believe that the commonsense provisions in this bill — like flexible voter ID requirements — will do just that,” he said.

The bill would aim to promote 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," a summary of the measure says.

In addition to Manchin and Merkley, the bill is backed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Angus King of Maine, Alex Padilla of California, Jon Tester of Montana, and Raphael Warnock of Georgia.

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