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What’s in the voting rights bills being debated in Congress?

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act are what senators are debating.
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 10:54 AM PST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - With two voting bills stalled in the Senate, Senate Democrats say it’s important to pass the legislation to ensure each person’s right to vote.

“Both of which are crucial in defending our very democracy, and that should be plain to everyone,” says Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

“The most fundamental of all of our freedoms in this country is the freedom to vote,” adds Senator Tina Smith (D-MN). “The freedom to have our voices heard through our vote.”

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act are what Senators are debating.

The John R. Lewis Act seeks to establish a new criteria for getting federal approval before changing voting laws at the state level.

The Freedom to Vote Act addresses expanding voter registration, campaign finance, and congressional redistricting.

It would also establish Election Day as a federal holiday and would require states to conduct post-election audits for federal elections.

In 2021, there were sweeping changes at the state level to election laws.

According to the left-leaning Brennan Center in Washington, D.C., 19 states passed 34 laws limiting access to voting last year.

Republican Senators say bills have been passed to extend voting rights and the power of changing voting laws should remain at the state level.

“Under the Constitution, state elections are run just there and that’s the state,” says Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas). “What Democrats want to do being the party of big government they believe that Washington knows best.”

“It would overturn Missouri’s laws. It would change our voter ID law. It would scrap it, basically,” says Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO). “It would change other rules that we have in place in the state of Missouri about absentee voting, about voter verification.”

President Biden maintains his voting rights push is also about who gets to count the votes.

In the House of Representatives, members voted the week before MLK Day to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, which combines the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act into one bill.

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