Union-backed coalition throws weight behind effort to revive Freedom to Vote Act

WASHINGTON (PAI)—Four big unions—the Teachers (AFT), the Communications Workers, the Service Employees, and AFSCME—plus Pride at Work and the Working Families Party, were among 260 groups who renewed their support for a wide-ranging pro-voting rights bill in D.C. this week.

The Freedom to Vote Act, pushed by congressional Democratic leaders, was expected to come up on the Senate floor before the lawmakers’ August recess. It fell victim to a Senate GOP filibuster threat in the last Congress, but backers reintroduced it. The groups, in the new Defend Our Democracy coalition, lobbied lawmakers for it and asked members to weigh in.

But its outlook in the Republican-run House is slim to none. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the measure is in contrast to a pending GOP-backed House bill deceivingly labeled the “American Confidence in Elections” Act, which slams on stricter voting controls, including restrictions on mail-in voting, and clamps down on voter registration.

The House Administration Committee, which handles voting legislation, rejected the Freedom to Vote Act when Democrats there offered it, then passed their restrictive measure by an 8-4 party-line tally.

“All Americans, no matter where they live, should have the freedom to vote without fear of discrimination,” said Schumer. “Our bill will set basic standards for Americans to vote safely and securely and help instill confidence our elections are free and fair.”

It also would ban partisan gerrymandering, which lets lawmakers choose their constituents and not the other way around, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., added.

“The MAGA Republicans,” Schumer said, would “erect new obstacles to voter registration and mail-in voting” and “allow the scourge of dark money to fester in our politics by loosening campaign finance safeguards and empowering wealthy, wealthy donors.” The Freedom to Vote Act forces big givers to disclose who they are and how much they give, or spend, on elections.

Unions threw their weight behind Freedom to Vote. Two unions, the Communications Workers and the Service Employees, immediately emailed their members and allies. The Teachers and AFSCME supported enacting the law in late 2022, when it last came up, and haven’t changed since.

“The United States Senate has an opportunity to repair our political system and strengthen our democracy. The Freedom to Vote Act is a bold and sweeping reform bill that will make it easier, not harder, to vote, get big money out of our democracy, and ensure public officials work for the public interest,” CWA declared, urging members to call or email their lawmakers.

“Our right to vote is under attack across the United States. With more than 440 anti-voter laws being proposed across the country we need to take action now! Some Republicans are trying to deny our freedom to vote through anti-voter bills. We won’t be fooled, their tactics are directly targeted at silencing working people, particularly working people of color,” SEIU said.

“American democracy is under the gravest threat since the Civil War,” AFT President Randi Weingarten, a New York civics teacher who has a law degree, said when senators last considered the Freedom to Vote Act, last October. “Election deniers are seeking control…putting our free and fair elections at risk. We must counter the factions that threaten our freedoms with an even more powerful coalition that transcends politics and parties.”

“Voting rights are under siege around the country, with 19 states having enacted laws designed specifically to suppress the vote and disenfranchise people of color and other marginalized, underrepresented communities,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said then.

“Protecting and expanding access to the ballot box should be a bipartisan value, as it has been in the past. Instead, some senators have chosen to block even having a debate on the Freedom To Vote Act. This orchestrated, cynical attack on our most precious right is all about silencing the voices of Americans who don’t share the extreme views of those senators.”

Details about the legislation, from prime sponsor Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., are available here.

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.