Democrats Reveal Plan For New Voting Rights Protections

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Senate Democrats are planning to make adjustments to the chamber’s version of the For the People Act this week as Congressional leaders continue to work on getting the monumental voting rights legislation passed. The changes could, in theory, help boost the bill’s chances in the Senate. If enacted, the legislation would, among other changes, require opportunities for same-day voter registration (meaning that voters could register and vote on Election Day), demand automatic voter registration for federal elections, and mandate the establishment of independent commissions to handle redistricting.

Senate Democrats’ adjustments to the version of the For the People Act that the Democrat-led House already passed are planned for a session of the Senate Rules Committee this week. As summarized by NBC, the changes include the opportunity for waivers allowing extra time to comply with the automatic voter registration rules, a slight extension of the time for the required implementation of same-day voter registration, and an exemption for certain localities, including very small jurisdictions, from the mandate to provide 15 days of early voting for federal races.

In addition to these planned changes, Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) has been planning to propose an amendment that would ban states from restricting the provision of food and water to voters standing in line at polling places, as long as the items are shared with all voters equally and as long as those providing the sustenance aren’t engaging in political activity. Ossoff’s home state of Georgia recently banned outside organizations from providing food and water to voters standing in line at polling places. Georgia authorities included this ban in a long list of newly enacted election restrictions, all of which gloss over the fact that no systematic security issues were discovered under the state’s previous election guidelines.

At present, only Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) hasn’t expressed support for the For the People Act among Senate Democrats. Although (with Manchin on board) Democrats have 51 votes in the 100-member chamber when factoring in Vice President Kamala Harris’s role as a tiebreaker, the Senate also has a filibuster rule requiring the agreement of at least 60 Senators before moving to a final vote on most legislation. A top Democratic aide told NBC that “there’s several options Dems have to get the legislation to the floor,” although it’s unclear what all that those options might entail.