Tester Statement After McConnell Blocks Critical Voting Rights Bill

Senator’s Freedom to Vote Act would maintain local control over voting systems, defend Montana’s elections

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today released the following statement after Senator Mitch McConnell blocked a motion to proceed to debate on Tester’s Freedom to Vote Act:

“Free and fair access to the ballot box for eligible voters is a cornerstone of our democracy, and my Freedom to Vote Act would ensure that every Montanan is able to make their voice heard. I am frustrated that Senator Mitch McConnell and his followers today blocked this commonsense legislation that would protect Montanans’ right to vote while also allowing states to maintain local control over their elections, keep our elections safe in the face of new and evolving threats, shine a light on dark money in politics, and close loopholes that open the door to foreign spending on elections. I am going to keep fighting to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and ensure that every eligible Montana voter can make their voice heard at the ballot box.”

Tester worked with his colleagues to draft the Freedom to Vote Act to address increasing attacks on access to the ballot box, including efforts in Montana to end same-day registration and make it harder for college students to vote. The bill also 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 request one, protects 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.

In addition to the Freedom to Vote Act, Tester, who is the founder of the Senate Transparency Caucus, is pushing several other measures to bring more accountability and transparency to campaigns, including the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would defend Montanans’ fundamental right to vote by restoring protections under the Voting Rights Act and take aim against measures that states use to make it more difficult for eligible voters to cast their ballot.

Tester also recently reintroduced his Corporations Are Not People Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and declare that corporations are not people; his Sunlight for Unaccountable Non-Profits (SUN) Act to increase transparency in online political advertising and require political non-profits to publically disclose their major donors; and his Cleaning Up Washington’s Act to help “drain the swamp” and close the revolving door between special interest lobbyist and Members of Congress.