Padilla Delivers Floor Speech in Support of For the People Act, Pushes to Strengthen Voting Rights and Equal Access to the Ballot

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) delivered a speech on the floor of the United States Senate in support of the For the People Act, a package of comprehensive reforms that focuses on ending voter suppression, halting special interest corruption, and tackling partisan gerrymandering. As California’s former Secretary of State, Padilla implemented a variety of policies to ensure elections were more accessible and inclusive, including California’s Motor Voter Program and the landmark Voter’s Choice Act.  

WATCH: Click here to view Padilla’s remarks

 Key Excerpts:

  • But the sobering and harsh reality is that it is easier to buy a gun in some parts of the country than it is to cast a ballot…It seems to me that we have our priorities entirely backward when we make it easier to buy a weapon than we do to cast a vote.
  • Just as the pandemic put a spotlight on the historic inequities in our economy and health care systems, so too did it shine a light on inequities in access to the ballot. The 2020 election – held in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic – demonstrated once again that we have made it easier for some citizens to vote than others.
  • Too often, it’s working-class communities, communities of color, and young voters who are silenced. For voters whose work schedule does not allow them to wait in line to vote, the denial of vote by mail and early voting denies the opportunity to vote altogether.

For voters who do not have a specified form of state identification—even though they are American citizens of voting age and otherwise eligible — lack of ID can mean that they will not be given a ballot, even if they can verify their identity in another way. 

For voters who want to vote by mail, unreasonable ballot receipt deadlines and a scarcity of ballot return locations, and slow, unreliable postal service delivery times can mean ballots not being counted.

For young voters, and for those who move frequently, antiquated registration systems and unreasonably early registration deadlines can leave them unable to register or update their registration record to exercise their fundamental right to vote. All of these voting restrictions have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. 

  • Just like the poll taxes and literacy tests of the Jim Crow era, the truth is plain for all to see: voter suppression laws are rooted in white supremacy.
  • All voters deserve equal voting rights and equal access to the ballot. We are a stronger democracy and a better nation when we hear all voices from all corners of our nation, and when those voices are not just heard, but counted. By passing the For the People Act we can ensure that more voices are heard and more voices are counted.

The full transcript of Padilla’s remarks as prepared for delivery below:

Mr. / Madam President, I rise to speak today on the For the People Act.

But before I do, I want to take a moment to honor the lives of those tragically lost in Colorado yesterday by yet another senseless mass shooting in our country. My heart breaks for their families. 

But the sobering and harsh reality is that it is easier to buy a gun in some parts of the country than it is to cast a ballot.

In 25 states, voters must be registered and have IDs in order to cast a ballot. But those same states allow people to buy rifles without permits and require no background checks for some sales. Think about that. 

It seems to me that we have our priorities entirely backward when we make it easier to buy a weapon than we do to cast a vote.

Mr. President, as we work to rebuild our economy for all of our people, we must acknowledge that to build an inclusive economy, we need an inclusive democracy.

Just as the pandemic put a spotlight on the historic inequities in our economy and health care systems, so too did it shine a light on inequities in access to the ballot.

The 2020 election – held in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic – demonstrated once again that we have made it easier for some citizens to vote than others. That is not an accident.  

Depending on where a voter lives, they may or may not be able to register to vote online. They may or may not be able to participate in same day registration. They may or may not be able to vote early or by mail. All of this varies state-by-state.

This patchwork has a direct and dramatic effect on whose voices are heard in our democracy.

Too often, it’s working-class communities, communities of color, and young voters who are silenced.

For voters whose work schedule does not allow them to wait in line to vote, the denial of vote by mail and early voting denies the opportunity to vote altogether.

For voters who do not have a specified form of state identification—even though they are American citizens of voting age and otherwise eligible — lack of ID can mean that they will not be given a ballot, even if they can verify their identity in another way.

For voters who want to vote by mail, unreasonable ballot receipt deadlines and a scarcity of ballot return locations, and slow, unreliable postal service delivery times can mean ballots not being counted.

For young voters, and for those who move frequently, antiquated registration systems and unreasonably early registration deadlines can leave them unable to register or update their registration record to exercise their fundamental right to vote.

All of these voting restrictions have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. 

Just like the poll taxes and literacy tests of the Jim Crow era, the truth is plain for all to see: voter suppression laws are rooted in white supremacy.

The For the People Act presents an opportunity to establish a baseline of voting rights and ballot access for all voters.

I know that the For the People Act will improve voting rights in America because as California’s Secretary of State, I helped adopt and implement these best practices.

These include:

•                     automatic and same day voter registration,

•                     online registration,

•                     expanded access to vote by mail,

•                     extended early voting periods, and

•                     widespread and convenient access to secure, official ballot drop off locations.

Together, these policies help ensure equitable access to the ballot and, in so, strengthen our democracy.

While California has led the way in making our elections more accessible to all voters, the policies we implemented are not unique to our state:

•                    States like Maine and Alaska have also adopted automatic voter registration policies.

•                    States like Utah, Iowa, Idaho, and Wyoming, also permit same-day voter registration.

•                    States like Florida and Ohio also allow no-excuse vote by mail and provide voters with early voting options as well.

The election reforms within the For the People Act are not Democratic or Republican policies, they are common sense and they are proven to work.

All voters deserve equal voting rights and equal access to the ballot.

We are a stronger democracy and a better nation when we hear all voices from all corners of our nation, and when those voices are not just heard, but counted.

By passing the For the People Act we can ensure that more voices are heard and more voices are counted.

Thank you Mr. President. I yield the floor.

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