Democrat voting rules bill prohibits states from requiring ID or social to obtain absentee ballot

A state "may not deny a voter a ballot or the opportunity to cast it on the grounds that the voter does not possess a current and valid driver's license number or a social security number," the proposed bill says.

Updated: January 6, 2022 - 10:47am

Voting rules legislation that Democrats are moving forward in the 50-50 Senate would prohibit states from imposing an identification requirement in order to obtain an absentee ballot ahead of an election.

Under the Freedom to Vote Act, a state "may not require an individual to submit any form of identifying document as a condition of obtaining or casting an absentee ballot."

The bill permits a state to require certain information under section 303(a)(5)(A) of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (52 U.S.C. 21083) for voter registration, but a state "may not deny a voter a ballot or the opportunity to cast it on the grounds that the voter does not possess a current and valid driver's license number or a social security number."

Instead, states may require the "signature of the individual or similar affirmation as a condition of obtaining or casting an absentee ballot."

Democrats argue that passage of this bill as well as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 will help protect voting rights and increase access to the ballot box.

Phillip Kline, former Kansas attorney general, disagrees with those provisions of the Freedom to Vote Act that would create one-size-fits-all federal rules for absentee and mail-in ballots.

Not requiring ID or Social Security numbers to obtain mail-in ballots could lead to illegal ballot harvesting, Kline argued.

"There are commonsense protections that are placed on an absentee ballot because you do not have trained election officials to make sure that the voter is not misled or coerced or intimidated to vote a certain way and to make sure it was the actual voter who completed the ballot," he said. "They're eliminating all of those commonsense protections."

In the 2020 election cycle, many states cited the coronavirus pandemic as the reason to loosen requirements for obtaining an absentee ballot. Kline said that it was wrong to change election law with regard to mail-in ballots during the pandemic.

"It never made sense to eliminate commonsense protections for the integrity of the election and for the inclusion of everybody in the counting center" or to have "government put their thumb on the scale and turn out certain voters," Kline said. "It never made sense to do that under COVID or in any election, and now they're trying to write it into law.

"This wasn't about COVID. You saw all of the funds that were spent that supposedly were going to ensure a safe election, and all in all less than 5-7% went to personal protection here or [to] sanitize or anything like that. The money went to voter turnout; to targeting specific voters to improperly break the chain of custody of all of these 'Zuckerboxes' that were dropped everywhere in the urban core."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Tuesday that the Democrat-led Senate would move forward with votes on the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

If the GOP blocks the legislation from advancing, Schumer said, the Democrats would vote on some sort of rule change to allow floor debate on certain pieces of legislation dealing with issues prioritized by Democrats. 

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