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Senate Democrats have reached agreement on amended voting rights legislation, but there remains a major hurdle in the evenly divided room as Republicans prepare to halt the bill’s progress.
The package is the latest attempt by Democrats to counter Republican-led actions at the state level to restrict access to voting and alter election management.
The new legislation, unveiled Tuesday morning by Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and several sponsors, builds a framework proposed by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who opposed previous sweeping action by his party.
Besides Manchin, sponsors of the new bill are Democratic Senators Raphael Warnock of Georgia, John Tester of Montana, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Alex Padilla of California, along with independent Senator Angus King of Maine.
Republicans have united in opposition to what they call a federal takeover of state election politics. With an evenly divided Senate, the Republican Party is standing in the way of Democrats, and their efforts will be less than the 60 votes needed to push this measure forward.
The new legislation, called the Freedom of Voting Act, includes several provisions from the sweeping Democrats for the People Act, which has run into a Republican block.
The amended bill would make Election Day a public holiday, ensure that every state introduces voter registration on the same day, set minimum federal standards on mail-in voting, and ban partisan gerrymandering, among its provisions.
“The entire voting rights working group, including Senators Manchin and Merkley, are united behind legislation that will establish key national standards to ensure that all Americans can cast their ballots in the way that best suits them, regardless of which zip code they live in,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “.
The bill also includes Manchin’s call for a voter identification clause, but it would allow voters who cast their ballots in person to “present a wide range of identification cards and documents in paper and digital form,” according to the statement.
Democrats have expressed their newfound openness to voter identity requirements.
“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and the Voting Act is a step in the right direction toward protecting that right for every American,” Manchin said. “As elected officials, we also have an obligation to restore [people’s] Faith in our democracy, and I believe the logical provisions in this bill — such as flexible voter identification requirements — will do just that.”
The new legislation also includes steps to prevent electoral sabotage. The statement said it would establish a “protection to isolate the nonpartisan state and local officials who administer federal elections from undue partisan interference or control.”
A separate Democratic Voting Bill, a measure named after the late John Lewis to restore the Voting Rights Act, passed with Democratic votes in the House last month.
Klobuchar, as chair of the Senate Rules Committee, has held several events to advance new support for Democrats’ voting rights efforts, including the committee’s first field hearing in Georgia last summer.
Yet even as Democrats work to drum up votes in their party, Republicans remain largely opposed to any such reform efforts.
Having said that, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said the Chamber would proceed anyway to demonstrate the party’s solidarity surrounding the effort. Schumer submitted a procedural motion before the August recess to take up the plan during the current working period. The Senate returned from a break on Monday.
Some proponents say the move will help raise the temperature in the debate to overturn the legislative block, although members like Manchin have repeatedly said they remain opposed to such a measure.