Senator Jon Ossoff has filed legislation to create a statutory ‘right to vote’ at the federal level and give citizens a pathway to sue over laws that make it difficult to vote.
In an announcement regarding the bill, Ossoff’s office said the legislation will protect U.S. citizens “from laws that make it harder to cast a ballot.” Under the legislation, citizens could contest state laws addressing registering to vote, obtaining any ID required to vote, casting a ballot, and ensuring that ballot is counted.
The proposed legislation defines a difficulty to vote as a ‘substantial impairment,’
which is a “non-trivial impairment that makes it more difficult to vote” than if it had not been adopted and stipulates that an “impairment may be substantial even if the voter or other similarly situated voters are able to vote notwithstanding the impairment.”
Additionally, the bill is retroactive for any laws that were not in effect during the November 2020 election but have since been enacted, which would include Georgia’s new election law approved by the legislature in March and signed by Governor Kemp earlier this year. The measure is already facing a slew of lawsuits.
From the press release:
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.
Ossoff filed the bill last week. New York Congressman Mondaire Jones (NY-17) introduced companion legislation in the House. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Angus King (I-ME) then joined as original co-sponsors of the bill.
“This legislation would establish for the first time ever an affirmative right to vote in U.S. federal statute, empowering American citizens to challenge in court any action taken by a state or local government that makes it harder to access the ballot…and it would empower citizens to challenge in court provisions passed by the states that restrict ballot access, empowering citizens to force states, like the state of Georgia, to prove why such restrictions are necessary, what legitimate ends they serve, and that such restrictions are the least restrictive way of achieving those ends.”
“Voting is the foundation of our democracy, and this legislation moves us closer to protecting the sacred right to vote for every American,” said Sen. Warnock. “I am proud to cosponsor this bill, which helps protect access to the ballot box for every eligible voter in Georgia and across our country.”
Following the filing of the bill, a number of organizations announced their support for the bill, including Fair Fight Action, Counsel with Protect Democracy, Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the ACLU Voting Rights Project.
You can read the legislation below.