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Senate Democrats unveil revision of voting act

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and a group of Democrats on Tuesday unveiled new legislation to protect access to the polls. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and a group of Democrats on Tuesday unveiled new legislation to protect access to the polls. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Months after their sweeping election reform bill was blocked by a filibuster, Senate Democrats unveiled revised legislation to counteract a slew of voter-restriction laws in Republican-led states.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and several other Democratic senators on Tuesday introduced the Freedom to Vote Act, which includes measures such as an early voting period of at least 15 days for federal elections and same-day registration in every state.

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The bill also limits partisan interference by election officials, combats secret money by mandating that super PACs disclose their donors and strengthens security measures for ballots and voting systems. Election Day would become a public holiday under the new legislation.

"The freedom to vote is fundamental to all our freedoms," Klobuchar said in a statement.

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The bill is similar to the For the People Act, which passed the House in March but was blocked by Senate Republicans in June with a 50-50 vote, 10 votes shy of what the Democrats needed to avoid a filibuster.

The Democratic bills were introduced in response to GOP-led states crafting legislation that opponents describe as voter suppression in the wake of President Joe Biden's victory in the November general election.

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The Republicans and supporters of their voting bills argue the legislation is about ensuring the integrity of their elections by beefing up security measures.

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The Brennan Center for Justice in a July report said 18 states had this year enacted 30 laws that restrict access to voting, with more than 400 bills with provisions that restrict voting access introduced in 49 states.

Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that restricts early voting and adds new identification requirements, which was met with lawsuits from the NAACP and the ACLU.

Democrats on Tuesday framed these Republican bills as an attack against democracy.

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"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," Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. "Our bill would set commonsense minimum standards to ensure that no state infringes upon its citizens' right to vote and confront widespread dark money spending."

On Tuesday, the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute in support of democracy, said the bill represents the best opportunity for democracy reform in years.

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"I cannot express how critical this piece of legislation is," Michael Waldman, president of the center, said in a statement. "Legislatures in nearly half of the states have passed laws that make it harder for eligible voters to cast ballots. The politicians claim it's all about 'election integrity.' In fact, it's about preserving power as America diversifies and advancing Trump's Big Lie of a stolen election."

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the bill "a good proposal" and said he intends to hold a Senate vote on it as early as next week.

"The Senate must act," he said Tuesday from the Senate floor. "Time, time is of the essence."

For the bill the pass the Senate, the Democrats would again require 10 Republicans to cross the aisle to prevent a filibuster.

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