WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As Republican-controlled state legislatures pass a wave of laws https://www.reuters.com/world/us/republicans-erect-voting-barriers-across-number-politically-crucial-us-states-2021-06-15 that civil rights advocates say will restrict access to voting for Blacks and Hispanics, congressional Democrats have made passing a federal elections reform bill a top priority.
As they bring it to the U.S. Senate floor on Tuesday, they have a hard road ahead – top Republicans are dead set against the move and not even all Democrats are in agreement.
Moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin introduced a proposal last week as a narrower alternative to the sweeping “For the People Act.” The White House and voting-rights activist and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams praised Manchin’s ideas, which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately condemned.
Here are some details of the two approaches:
Both include the Honest Ads Act and DISCLOSE Act, which contain measures such as requiring super PACs – political action committees – and other organizations that spend money in elections and judicial nominations to disclose donors who contribute more than $10,000, and direct online platforms to implement actions to prevent foreign nationals from directly or indirectly purchasing political ads.
Both plans require the president and vice president to disclose their individual tax returns and certain business tax returns. They also both mandate the president and vice president to divest financial interests that pose a conflict of interest or disclose information about their business interests within 30 days of taking office.
Both Manchin and the Senate bill require 15 consecutive days for early voting. Manchin’s framework mandates that the early voting period includes two weekends.
Both plans require automatic voter registration, with Manchin’s proposal requiring it to be done through the Department of Motor Vehicles, with the option to opt out.
The Senate bill requires states to set up an independent commission to handle congressional redistricting. Manchin’s proposal bans partisan gerrymandering and calls for the use of computer models.
Manchin’s proposals include making Election Day a federal holiday, which is not included in the Senate version of the bill.
The Senate bill bars states from requiring applicants to provide more than the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and allows voters to show sworn affidavits instead of presenting photo identification.
Manchin’s proposal requires voter identification but allows some alternatives, like the use of a utility bill, to prove a voter’s eligibility to cast a ballot.
VOTING BY MAIL
The Senate bill prohibits states from imposing restrictions on an individual’s ability to vote by mail. Manchin’s proposal would require states to send absentee mail ballots “due to eligible circumstance.” It does not elaborate on what such circumstances would be.
THINGS IN SENATE BILL THAT ARE NOT INCLUDED IN MANCHIN’S PROPOSAL:
– Prohibition of states’ denying citizens the right to vote because of a criminal conviction and requirement for incarcerated individuals’ former residences to be used for redistricting purposes, instead of a prison.
– Requirement of the use of secured ballot drop boxes and the barring of restrictions on curbside voting, both practices that were used in states during the 2020 election as the coronavirus pandemic raged.
– Ban on lawmakers from serving on the boards of for-profit entities.
– Establishment of a system in which small-dollar donations up to $200 for certain candidates are matched by six times the amount of public funds, financed with a surcharge on some criminal fines and penalties.
(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Peter Cooney)