Padilla, Ossoff Introduce Bill Establishing First-Ever Statutory Federal Right to Vote
Washington, D.C. — Today U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) joined Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) to introduce the Right to Vote Act, legislation to create a first-ever affirmative Federal voting rights guarantee for all U.S. citizens. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Angus King (I-Maine) are cosponsors of the bill.
With voting rights under attack in state legislatures across the country, the Right to Vote Act protects American citizens’ fundamental right to vote. It establishes a first-ever statutory right to vote in federal elections — protecting U.S. citizens from laws that make it harder to cast a ballot.
The bill allows Americans to enforce that right by challenging in court any policy that restricts ballot access. States attempting to restrict voting access will have to meet a high bar to justify any policy that makes it harder for U.S. citizens to participate in Federal elections. The Right to Vote Act protects all actions necessary for Americans to participate in elections, including registering to vote, obtaining any ID required to vote, casting a ballot, and ensuring that ballot is counted.
As former California Secretary of State who oversaw elections in the most populous state of the nation, Padilla knows first-hand the importance of taking proactive steps to protect the fundamental right to vote.
“As Republican-led legislatures weaponize the Big Lie to attack our free and fair elections, it is more important than ever for Congress to affirm that voters have a right to participate in our elections,” said Senator Padilla. “The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy. When that foundation is undermined, Americans must have a clear standard that enables them to defend their right in court.”
“The Right to Vote Act will for the first time enshrine the right to vote in Federal statute and allow U.S. citizens to challenge in court any policy that makes it harder for them to participate in elections,” Sen. Ossoff said.
New York Congressman Mondaire Jones (NY-17) introduced companion legislation in the House.
Top civil and voting rights groups endorsed the bill today:
“As we’ve seen in recent months, voter suppression is alive and well, with over 18 states passing bills making it harder for people to cast a ballot. The ACLU supports this bill because we need new legal tools to fight those efforts and ensure that all voters have equal access to the ballot,” said Adriel Cepeda Derieux, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU Voting Rights Project.
“The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law enthusiastically supports this bill that will ensure that courts give full and fair consideration to claims that states and other jurisdictions have unnecessarily placed burdens on the right to vote. Because that right is preservative of all other rights, these protections are needed,” said Ezra Rosenberg, Co-Director, Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
“The ability to cast a ballot and have that ballot counted is a critical feature of our democracy –– one that deserves robust protection in the courts,” said Genevieve Nadeau, Counsel with Protect Democracy. “This bill fills an unfortunate gap in the current legal landscape by creating a statutory right to vote in federal elections and requiring governments that burden that right to meet a high bar to justify doing so. It offers voters important legal protections and a meaningful way to enforce their rights in court.”
“In recent years, federal courts have failed to use existing constitutional and statutory protections to safeguard the freedom to vote, especially for Black and brown voters,” said Adam Lioz, Senior Counsel at Demos. “In addition to reversing the Supreme Court’s attacks on the Voting Rights Act and implementing nationwide minimum standards for access to the ballot, creating a statutory right to vote freely in federal elections with clear standards for courts to safeguard this right adds a critical layer of protection, which voters desperately need in the face of a racist, full frontal attack on their freedoms. Demos applauds Sen. Ossoff for bringing this critical solution into our urgent national voting rights conversation.”
“Fair Fight Action supports legislation like this that will empower the courts to protect voters,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, CEO, Fair Fight Action.