Cantwell Statement on Need to Pass the For the People Act

Cantwell: “It's time for us to say let's not make voting harder in the United States of America… We should be empowering more people.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) gave a speech on the Senate Floor in support of the For the People Act to uphold constitutionally protected voting rights. She spoke about the need for the federal government to step in when states fail to act. Senator Cantwell voted for the Act, but it failed to meet the 60 vote cloture threshold by a vote of 50 to 50.

“At the heart of this debate is whether we're going to fight to make sure that the federal government does its job on constitutional rights,” said Senator Cantwell.

The For the People Act is a comprehensive package of election reforms that sets basic national standards on voting access, campaign finance, and ethics rules. The Senate considered this bill as more and more states continue to restrict Americans’ access to the ballot box following the 2020 election —with a disproportionate impact on Black and Brown Americans.

Senator Cantwell went on to say, “I feel like there's a little bit of hiding going on in this discussion about whether [the federal government has] a role, that this is somehow left up to the states, which reminds me when Rosa Parks was sitting on a bus, we didn't say it's just up to those individual states or when people were denied equal accommodations at hotels, we didn't say it was just up to those states. And we certainly didn't say when people used police dogs trying to intimidate women to vote in the 1960's, that it was just up to those states.

“No, no, no. We did something about it. We passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. We did that because intimidation was happening and we needed to correct for it.

“This is about whether we do our job in upholding these constitutional rights when certain states don't do that.”

Cantwell concluded that she hoped Senate consideration of the For the People Act would be the start of a continuing effort to protect voting rights, and pointed to the high voter participation rate in the State of Washington as an example: “And what we need to be doing here is to show states that an 83% voter turnout in the State of Washington is a great victory. A high turnout is a great participatory system, and that's what we should be striving for with these reforms that are about security and about our constitutional rights.”

Washington state has already enacted a number of the provisions in the For the People Act including automatic voter registration, same-day voting registration, and vote-by-mail.

Cantwell cosponsored the For the People Act and joined her colleagues in introducing the legislation in March 2021.

She has been a long-time advocate of investment to improve voting access and election security to make sure every American citizen has the ability to vote. In July 2020, Senator Cantwell joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act —to restore and strengthen the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. In January 2021, Cantwell introduced the Vote At Home Act to expand vote-by-mail ballot access, providing voters with pre-paid ballot return envelopes, and enacting automatic voter registration.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s floor speech is available HERE, audio is HERE, and a transcript is HERE.