WATCH: Sen. Ossoff Introduces Legislation Establishing First-Ever Statutory Federal Right to Vote

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff is introducing legislation to create the first-ever affirmative Federal voting rights guarantee for all U.S. citizens.

Today, Sen. Ossoff introduced the Right to Vote Act toenshrine into law American citizens’ fundamental right to vote.

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chair of the U.S. Senate Rules Committee, Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Angus King (I-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) cosponsored the bill.

“I am introducing today legislation called the Right to Vote Act. And this bill would empower voters to challenge in court any action taken by a state or local government that makes it harder to vote, and force that state or that locality to demonstrate that the restrictions serve some governmental purpose and are the least restrictive means of doing so,” Sen. Ossoff said in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today on voting rights.

Sen. Ossoff’s Right to Vote Act would protect American citizens’ fundamental right to vote by establishing a first-ever statutory right to vote in Federal elections — protecting U.S. citizens from laws that make it harder to cast a ballot.

The bill allows Americans to enforce that right by challenging in court any policy that unduly restricts ballot access. States attempting to restrict voting access would have to meet a high bar to justify any policy that makes it harder for U.S. citizens to participate in Federal elections.

“Our democracy works best when Americans can make their voices heard, and as we continue to see unprecedented attacks on the right to vote in states across the country, we must take action,” said Klobuchar. “This legislation enables voters to challenge policies that make it more difficult to cast their ballots, empowering people to protect voting rights nationwide.”

“The right to vote is preservative of all other rights in our country because it is the framework in which all debate takes place,” said Senator Reverend Warnock. “I’m proud to join my brother Senator Ossoff in introducing this critical legislation.”

“As Republican-led legislatures continue to pass laws designed to suppress the right to vote and courts fail to provide a meaningful check, it is more important than ever for Congress to affirm that voters have a right to participate in our elections,” said Senator Padilla. “The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy. When the right to vote is undermined, Americans must have a clear standard that enables them to defend their right in court.”

“Fair and free elections are the cornerstone of our democracy,” said Senator Angus King. “As we continue to work toward a ‘More Perfect Union,’ we must ensure every American has the right to have their voice heard at the ballot box. For the first time, the Right to Vote Act will enshrine — in federal law — the fundamental right to vote in federal elections, and will allow U.S. citizens the right to challenge laws that make it harder to vote. In the face of state-level threats that undercut our access to the ballot booth, we must act now to protect our democratic process so we can pass our nation’s tradition of self-governance on to the next generation.”

“The ballot box is the beating heart of our democracy, but, for far too long, some Americans have faced enormous obstacles or outright denial as they’ve tried to participate in the democratic process. The Right to Vote Act gives Americans the power to contest unfair state laws designed to make it hard for targeted communities to exercise their constitutional right to vote. This defense of voting rights is hugely needed,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

Sen. Ossoff’s bill is backed by Protect Democracy, People For the American Way, Campaign Legal Center, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and Fair Fight Action.

“The right to vote and have that vote counted is fundamental to our democracy and must exist robustly in practice, not just on paper,” said Alexandra Chandler, head of the National Election Advocacy Team at Protect Democracy. “By creating a statutory right to vote in federal elections and requiring courts to safeguard that right – especially if governments act to make voting harder than in the past– the Right to Vote Act fills a crucial gap in current law.”

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of American democracy, and the Right to Vote Act helps protect it. Every eligible voter across the nation must have the freedom to fully participate in federal elections without fear of unlawful barriers created by those who want to turn us around and shut us out. The Right to Vote Act offers a clear standard for protections against voter suppression efforts that have negatively impacted communities of color, senior citizens, students and other historically marginalized communities. Empowering voters to hold state and local governments accountable for making it harder to access the ballot is just the right thing to do,” said People For the American Way President Svante Myrick.

“The right to vote is a basic American freedom,” said Trevor Potter, president of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center and a Republican former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “Americans of all political stripes agree that our government is supposed to be of, by, and for the people. We cannot achieve that ideal until all Americans have an equal chance to make their voice heard at the ballot box. We encourage legislators to come together to pass this bill and ensure that democracy can work for all of us.”

“The Right to Vote Act comes at a pivotal time for our democracy, and we applaud Senator Ossoff for its introduction,” said Fair Fight Action Interim CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo. “This year alone, we’ve seen close to 300 anti-voter bills introduced across the country, and that number continues to grow. By providing national standards for voting access, The Right to Vote Act is a key piece of legislation in the fight to ensure that every voice is heard in our democracy and that our elections truly reflect the will of the people. Together, we can ensure every eligible American can safely and freely cast their ballot. We must start with the swift passage of the Right to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”

Sen. Ossoff continues working to protect voting rights for eligible Georgia voters. 

This month, Sen. Ossoff joined Senators Reverend Raphael Warnock, Dick Durbin, Leader Chuck Schumer, and colleagues in reintroducing the John R. Lewis Voting Advancement Act, legislation that would update and restore critical safeguards of the original Voting Rights Act of 1965 that have been eroded in recent years by federal court rulings.

Last month, Sen. Ossoff and a group of Senators launched an inquiry with the General Services Administration (GSA), requesting updates on the modernization of, as outlined in President Biden’s Executive Order in 2021. 

In January, Sens. Ossoff and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) introduced the Ban Corporate PACs Act, which would ban for-profit corporations from influencing political campaigns and Federal elections. 

Click here to watch Sen. Ossoff’s remarks on today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. 

Click here to read the Right to Vote Act.

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