Voting rights in focus as 2024 nears

Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 2:56 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - With the 2024 Election effectively underway there is a spotlight on voting rights in the U.S. After historic turnout in 2020, many conservative states passed laws in the name of safe and secure elections. Some voting rights advocates say the laws passed in those states will disenfranchise voters moving forward. Some Senate Democrats are pushing for federal standards to avoid that.

“We’ve got to make sure that every eligible citizen has access to the franchise,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA).

Warnock recently joined his Democratic colleagues to reintroduce the Freedom to Vote Act, a wide-ranging bill that would institute federal standards for carrying out elections. It previously stalled in the Senate.

“What I want to make sure is that we have a floor that gets working people, for example, access to the vote,” said Warnock.

Democrats say the legislation would increase access to early and mail-in voting, secure voting systems, add election workers, crack down on political action committees, prohibit partisan gerrymandering, and more. Warnock introduced a separate piece of legislation specifically aiming to protect local election officials, the Preventing Election Subversion Act.

“It will ensure that partisan actors at the state level can’t simply swoop in and take over local boards of elections,” said Warnock.

The spate of Republican-led state laws passed after 2020, when Donald Trump led a crusade with unfounded claims of rampant voter fraud. Democrats like Warnock argue marginalized groups are penalized by many of these conservative laws. Some of the laws include instituting strict ID requirements, curbing access to early or mail in voting, purging voter rolls, and more.

“It improves public confidence in election results and therefore is an incentive for people to go vote,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

He argues Congress should assist states with the carrying out of elections, but national standards infringe on states’ rights. He also believes the Freedom to Vote Act does nothing to improve election integrity.

“If they want to basically micromanage the way states are running elections, that is not a good thing,” said von Spakovsky.

With a split-majority Congress, the Freedom to Vote Act faces even more of an uphill battle than when it was introduced in the last Congress.