The measure makes it much easier to register to vote.
All voters would be able to register, designate party affiliations, change addresses and de-register online; 40 states and the District of Columbia offer some or all of those options. Voters would also be automatically registered when visiting state or federal agencies unless they explicitly decline, similar to what has been required of most states — but not always carried out — by the federal “motor-voter law” that passed in 1993. Voters could also register when they cast a ballot, either on Election Day or during early voting, as is already the case in 21 states.
Early voting would be expanded nationwide, with all jurisdictions offering it for 15 days, for 10 hours daily, at easily accessible polling places. All but a handful of states allow early voting; the average early-ballot period is 19 days, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The bill would also require jurisdictions to provide at least one secure ballot drop box for every 20,000 voters.
Mail voting would be extended nationwide, and states would have to prepay postage and electronically track ballots so voters know when their ballots arrive and whether they have mistakes that need to be fixed.
It would defang many voting restrictions imposed by Republicans.
Republicans have won enactment of voter-ID laws in most states by arguing that they are needed to combat fraud, even though the sort of in-person fraud that such rules would discourage is all but nonexistent. The bill would effectively nullify such laws, allowing voters to sign affidavits swearing to their identities rather than showing ID.
The measure would also require that voters be notified at least a week before an election if their polling places have changed, and order steps to reduce long lines. Voting rights activists and specialists argue that turnout falls when polling locations are closed or changed.
The legislation also tries to beat back rules adopted by some states, including Texas and New Hampshire, that make it more difficult for college students to vote. It would designate universities as voter-registration agencies and offer nonpartisan assistance to students who cast absentee ballots.
Under the bill, states would be barred from taking voters off the rolls because they had not participated in recent elections, a practice that the Supreme Court upheld in 2018. Critics argue that the practice is aimed at reducing turnout.