Voting reform bill stalls in US Senate. Alaska senators, like all Republicans, voted no.

moonrise over Capitol, with dome to the left and purple sky.
Moonrise over the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 18, 2021. (Brett Davis)

A national voting reform bill stalled in the U.S. Senate Wednesday with Alaska’s senators, like all Republicans, voting against it.

The “Freedom to Vote” bill sets minimum standards for early voting and voting by mail, and it requires new financial disclosure from groups that spend money to influence elections. To boost turnout, it would also make Election Day a federal holiday.

Democrats say the bill is necessary to counter efforts in Republican jurisdictions that they argue will make it harder to vote, particularly for young people, the poor and others who have to move often. 

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has for years been the only Republican co-sponsor of the Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill to restore parts of a Civil Rights-era voting law that were nullified by Supreme Court decisions.

But Murkowski says the Freedom to Vote bill is “wholly partisan” and an attempt at micromanaging state elections.

Democratic leaders in the Senate say they aren’t done trying to pass a bill to protect access to the polls.

The procedural vote was 49-51. The bill needed 60 votes to end a filibuster. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., voted against it as a way to preserve his ability to bring the bill back to the floor.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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