Facts on the Freedom to Vote Act

The Freedom to Vote Act would help protect the right to vote. It increases access to the ballot box, neutralizes partisan and racial gerrymandering, and strengthens campaign finance enforcement against secret spending groups.

The bill also prevents intermediary secret spending groups from evading transparency requirements through trace-back provisions that require companies that spend over $10,000 on campaign-related activities to report their beneficial owners.

Voter Registration

Voter registration is a necessary process that helps ensure our democracy remains accessible to all eligible voters. It also serves as a way to ensure fair representation and increase transparency in political campaign spending.

In some jurisdictions, voter registration is mandatory, while others allow or require election-day registration. 

The Freedom to Vote Act requires that states allow citizens at least 16 years old to pre-register to vote so they can cast their ballot at federal elections as soon as they turn 18. This law also makes it easier for citizens to change their addresses or update their registration information without visiting a local Board of Elections office.

It also provides protections for citizens with disabilities who cannot enter a polling place, including the ability to select a family member or friend to assist them in voting. Additionally, states must modify policies that would discriminate against individuals with disabilities.

The Act also restores the right to vote for voters with felony convictions, including those who have completed their term of incarceration and are no longer in custody. In addition, it allows victims of domestic violence to apply for a confidential registration, where their registration record is kept separate from other records for four years.

Voting Machines

Voting machines have evolved from paper ballots and locked voting boxes of the 1800s to modern electromechanical devices that record the vote directly into their computer memory. However, as in all technology, voting machines remain vulnerable to tampering by malicious actors and unintentional errors that can lead to inaccurate results.

The Freedom to Vote Act provides several protections for voters and election officials intended to combat these threats. These include new laws insulating election officials from undue partisan interference, making poll worker intimidation a crime, and ensuring federal election records are secure.

Another security measure is a requirement that all elections use systems with voter-verified paper audit trails. These measures are essential in protecting the integrity of our democracy and help to address the growing concerns about election tampering.

While some states still use mechanical lever voting machines, most jurisdictions now rely on electronic or optical scan systems to tabulate votes. These electronic voting systems can be either direct recording electronic (DRE) or ballot marking devices (BMD). Both use touchscreens to enable voters to cast their votes and provide a voter-verified paper audit trail that election officials can verify.

Voting Procedures

The Freedom to Vote Act sets national standards for voting procedures to ensure that all Americans can cast their ballots in the best way for them. These standards will preempt many of the most egregious state efforts to undermine voting rights and make elections more accessible and complementary.

The Act requires public entities to modify their voting policies, practices, and procedures whenever necessary to avoid discrimination based on a disability. However, those modifications can be made only if election administrators demonstrate that the change would fundamentally alter the nature of the voting program.

The Act also mandates that public organizations offer auxiliary aids and services so that voters with disabilities can participate in elections. Those aids and services should be provided at each stage of the voting process, from registration to casting a ballot.

For example, if a voter with a disability has trouble waiting in a long line to vote, public entities must have a chair available at the polling place. They should also have an ADA-compliant communication device for someone deaf or blind or if it is challenging to communicate in writing.

The Act also strengthens requirements safeguarding election records, so states can only hand over voter registration and other election documents to private contractors with oversight. In addition, it includes the need that a person entrusted with an election record be the person who prepared it.

Voting Rights

The Freedom to Vote Act addresses various issues that affect voting rights and election reform. It sets national standards for voter registration and access to the ballot, addressing concerns such as voter purges from the rolls and voter eligibility for mail-in ballots. It also ensures that the right to vote is not abridged or denied due to felony convictions.

The bill also strengthens federal protections for election officials and makes intimidation of poll workers a crime. It also restricts the ability of partisan poll watchers to challenge a voter’s qualifications, and it requires states to use voting systems with a verifiable paper trail.

In addition, the Freedom to Vote Act expands the definition of “electioneering communications” to include paid Internet ads. It requires online platforms to make reasonable efforts to avoid selling political ads to foreign nationals and to identify sponsors of political ads to ensure the information is displayed on the platform when the viewer shares the ad with others.

It is a significant step forward in addressing the many problems affecting voting rights and elections.