In this May 12, 2021 file photo, Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at an event in Mechanicsburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Marc Levy) Tom Wolf
In this May 12, 2021 file photo, Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at an event in Mechanicsburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)

Gov. Tom Wolf joined 17 other governors nationwide who endorsed a letter urging Congress to protect the rights of all voters by passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf added his John Hancock to a letter urging Congress to protect the rights of voters by passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Wolf joins 17 other governors from across the nation who endorsed the letter sent to US Senate leaders Charles Schumer and Mitch McConnell. 

“Without decisive action by the federal government this year to protect voters’ access to the ballot and ensure the integrity and transparency of our elections, the voices of Americans across the county, especially Americans of color, will be suppressed,” the letter states.

Since the 2020 election, legislators in 48 states have introduced nearly 400 bills to restrict Americans’ access to the ballot, according to the letter. In Pennsylvania, legislators on both side of the aisle have introduced a slew of voting bills. Republicans have proposed mandating voter IDs, altering registration and ballot-counting deadlines, and giving conservatives auditing privileges.

“Even now, legislators in some states are pushing to rewrite election laws—some they themselves passed—simply because they did not like the outcome of the last election. These state-level efforts to limit access to the ballot undermine voting rights and create disparities across the country regarding voting access,” the letter states.

The governors said a federal solution is needed and could be accomplished by passing the two voting rights acts.

Freedom to Vote Act

The Freedom to Vote Act outlines criteria for congressional redistricting and prohibits mid-decade redistricting—essentially stopping gerrymandering. It ensures transparency in elections by requiring additional disclosure of campaign-related fundraising and spending and establishes an alternative campaign funding system for certain federal offices.

The bill pushes back against voter suppression by establishing a new criminal offense for conduct (or attempted conduct) to corruptly hinder, interfere with, or prevent someone from registering to vote or helping someone register to vote. It also expands voter registration and voting access, limits removing voters from voter rolls, and requires states to conduct post-election audits for federal elections.

The bill is currently awaiting a vote from the Senate.

John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that prevent voter suppression, particularly to people of color. States would no longer be able to pass anti-voter laws such as limiting access to polling places or ballot boxes.

The bill also reverses a 2013 US Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to change their voting laws without federal approval. It also strengthens the government’s ability to send federal observers to jurisdictions where elections are facing threats of discrimination.

The bill passed the House in September in a vote of 219-212. All the Democratic members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation voted for it, while all of the Republicans voted against it. The Senate has yet to vote on it.