Over the last few months, Senate leadership drafted a voting rights and democracy reform package to appeal to a broader range of senators. Out of these hard-fought negotiations and extensive consultations emerged the Freedom to Vote Act (FTVA).
FTVA includes many aspects of its predecessor, the For the People Act, including some enhancements and new provisions. The League is proud to support the Freedom to Vote Act, as it is the most significant voting rights bill in generations. This legislation will provide equal access to voting for all Americans, stop partisan gerrymandering, and limit the influence of dark money so that billionaires can’t buy elections.
Last Wednesday (Oct. 20), the Freedom to Vote Act came up for its first-ever vote on the Senate floor. The vote was a procedural one: senators needed 60 votes in order to proceed to debate on the bill. However, the bill failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to move forward, hitting a procedural roadblock on its way to protecting our democracy and expanding the voting rights of every American. The final tally was 51 – 49 against starting debate on the legislation.
One may wonder why a bill with 50 cosponsors did not receive a least 50 votes in favor. This does not reflect a loss of support but a procedural necessity to keep the bill alive. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer strategically voted down the bill to ensure that he can bring it up for consideration again. Immediately following the failed vote, Senator Schumer filed a motion to reconsider, which empowers him to bring the FTVA to the Senate once more. The fight for the Freedom to Vote Act is far from over.
The American people want and deserve the reforms in the FTVA. Seven out of ten Americans support the provisions in this bill. Elections in Virginia and New Jersey are just around the corner, and corner and the 2022 midterms are only months away. Now is the time for federal legislation to protect voting rights.
The historic 2020 election showed us how impactful the expansion of voting rights and access to the ballot can be. We saw record numbers of voters turn out and participate in our democracy. Millions of new voters found their voices in our elections and participated in the democratic process. We should be doing more to ensure the continued protection and expansion of voting rights for these and more Americans. And that is precisely what the Freedom to Vote Act does.
This is not the first time that direly needed voting rights legislation was blocked on procedural grounds. Now is the time to talk about the “F word”: filibuster. The filibuster has constantly been weaponized to block crucial legislation, even if it has widespread support among the American public. We cannot keep letting a procedural loophole prevent voting rights legislation from protecting our most basic rights. It is time to fix or nix the filibuster.
The filibuster is a relic of the Jim Crow era with a long history of defending and preserving discrimination and blocking civil rights. It is time to amend the filibuster to ensure our government can govern for the people.
We cannot allow our democracy to be held hostage. The Senate must act in all Americans' interest to ensure that whatever your background, race, or zip code, your freedoms are guaranteed.
Join the fight and reach out to your senators to tell them to vote YES on the Freedom to Vote Act. Make your voice heard and contact the White House to hold President Biden to his promise of leadership on voting rights. Talk to your family, neighbors, and community about the FTVA; let's make a difference together!