Char-Koosta News: Tester blasts senate dysfunction in floor speech, urges action on voting rights legislation

U.S. Senator Jon Tester took to the Senate floor last week to address the dysfunction that is preventing action on critical voting rights legislation, and to address the need to get the Senate working again.

“We need to ensure everybody has equal access to the polls, so that they can vote. It’s fundamental to our democracy,” said Tester. “We’ve dealt with economic issues, and we need to continue to deal with economic issues. We’ve dealt with supply chain issues with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and we need to continue to deal with supply chain issues as we move forward, and we will. But I will tell you, if we disenfranchise enough folks from the polls, we won’t have a democracy to talk about anything.”

Senator Tester made clear he does not support abolishing the filibuster, and has long been supportive of its role in forcing both sides to work together to pass legislation that will stand the test of time. Tester outlined his opposition to the abuse of the filibuster by small factions of either party.

Tester believes reinstating a ‘talking filibuster’ would force objectors to actually debate issues and members from both sides would have to listen to one another. Right now, one Senator can grind the whole Senate to a halt without having to explain themselves, which is why Senator Tester believes this change would protect the rights of the minority and benefit both parties-regardless of who is in power. Tester also supports ensuring both the minority and majority party get a set number of amendments at their choosing to vote on during such a debate.

While state legislatures in Montana and across the country are passing partisan laws to make it harder for people to vote, the filibuster is being weaponized in Washington to prevent Congress from taking up legislation that protects Americans’ constitutional right to have their voice heard at the ballot box-like the Freedom to Vote Act. The Freedom to Vote Act secures access to the ballot box for all eligible voters, shines a light on dark money in politics, and advances commonsense election security reforms to defend elections from bad actors. The bill also includes Tester’s Spotlight Act to require certain political non-profit organizations to disclose their donors to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), reversing a Trump-era rule that eliminated the requirement and allowed such organizations to keep their donors secret.

The Freedom to Vote Act includes many of Tester’s longtime priorities to clean up and secure elections, including:

Voting Rights

  • Makes federal Election Day a public holiday.
  • Requires states to offer or instate same-day voter registration.
  • Requires states to allow automatic and online voter registration and authorizes $500 million to help states register eligible voters.
  • Requires states to offer a mail-in ballot to any voter who requests one, protect and improve the reliability and security of vote-by-mail, and increase access to safe ballot drop box locations.
  • Creates common sense standards for voter identification, including allowing individuals to use a range of IDs – including student IDs – to register and cast their votes. Ensures voters have access to at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections.
  • Increase protections for Native voters by protecting the use of Tribal IDs, requiring ballot drop off locations on Tribal lands, increasing accommodations for voters with P.O. boxes, and requiring more consultation with Tribal leaders.

Campaign Finance Reform

  • Gets dark money out of campaigns by requiring super PACs, nonprofits, and other political organizations that engage in political activity to disclose information about donors who contribute more than $10,000.
  • Includes Tester’s Spotlight Act to require certain tax-exempt organizations to disclose basic information about major donors to the IRS.
  • Improves transparency by requiring disclaimers on online ads and requiring large digital platforms to maintain a public database of political ad purchases that are over $500 per year.
  • Prohibits foreign nationals from contributing to or making decisions about election contributions by corporations or other entities.
  • Ensures that political ads sold online have the same transparency and disclosure requirements as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.

Election Integrity

  • Protects against foreign interface in our elections and creates a reporting requirement for federal campaigns to disclose certain foreign contacts to the FBI.
  • Puts in place election vendor cybersecurity standards, including standards for manufacturing and requiring that voting machines be assembled in the U.S.
  • Requires states to use voting systems that produce a paper ballot.
  • Provides grants for states to purchase new and more secure voting systems and make cybersecurity improvements.
  • Establishes federal protections to insulate nonpartisan state and local officials who administer federal elections from undue partisan interference or control.