Schumer opens debate on Democrats' voting rights legislation

The House passed legislation last week that combines two of the Democrats' voting reform bills into one

Updated: January 18, 2022 - 1:38pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The 50-50 Senate on Tuesday considering the Democrats' voting reform legislation that includes a rule that would prohibit states from requiring a photo ID to cast a ballot.

Senate Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer opened the chamber floor to debate, as promised last week, amid what appears to be his party's long-shot odds of passing the measure.

The House passed a bill last week that combines two voting reform pieces of legislation into one.

Democrats are able to start a debate on the legislation, given that it was passed as a "message" from the House. Democratic leaders are reportedly considering a way to bypass the filibuster and pass it with a simple majority absent a formal legislative rules change.

Two Democratic senators, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, have publicly declared their opposition to eliminating the filibuster, which is the 60-vote threshold for legislation to advance in the chamber.

Schumer has said if the GOP uses the legislative filibuster to block passage of the legislation, Democrats would vote on a rules change. 

According to 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."

States are able to require the "signature of the individual or similar affirmation as a condition of obtaining or casting an absentee ballot." 

The bill allows states 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."

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would require states to receive approval from the federal government before changing election law if voting rights "violations occurred" over specific timeframes specified in the bill. 

The legislation "establishes new criteria for determining which states and political subdivisions must obtain pre-clearance before changes to voting practices" are able to take effect. 

According to an official summary of the bill, a state and all of its political subdivisions that meet the criteria in the bill "shall be subject to pre-clearance of voting practice changes for a 10-year period."