(WASHINGTON, September 27, 2021) – Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector, issues the following statement:
“In the coming weeks, members of the United States Senate may decide to call up far-reaching election administration and democracy reform legislation, the Freedom to Vote Act. A healthy civil society begins with voter participation, and the nonprofit sector has worked throughout America’s history to ensure that the perspectives of our communities are part of the nation’s voice. This legislation represents a profound commitment to voting and election security, and we urge Senators to begin this deeply urgent debate.
In adopting its principles for evaluating voting policy, Independent Sector noted that voter participation – especially in Black, Native, and other communities of color – is a fundamental indicator of human thriving. Through the lens of those principles, we are pleased to see that the Freedom to Vote Act contains extensive provisions to increase voter participation, including online voter registration, universal vote-by-mail eligibility, as well as minimum standards for early voting and ballot drop boxes. We are particularly encouraged by efforts to improve access for voters with unique challenges, including those with disabilities, Native Americans, members of the military, and other underserved communities. Additionally, the legislation takes important steps to prevent barriers to voting, including through the prohibition of using non-forwardable mail as a means to remove registered voters from the rolls.
Independent Sector’s principles also affirm that trust and confidence in elections lie at the foundation of our democracy. In that respect, we applaud the resources that this legislation would commit to election security and cybersecurity, as well as the protection of state and local election administrators from undue influence.
Once debate on the Freedom to Vote Act begins, we urge legislators to deliberate how the legislation may best protect another core liberty: the freedom of association. This deliberation should include:
- Inadvertent impacts on advocacy and freedom of association by a wide range of nonprofits and individuals, including noncitizens and other marginalized communities;
- Application of an expanded definition of partisan elections communications to nonpartisan national issue advocacy and nonprofits’ understanding of their ability to engage in this form of protected speech;
- The delicate balance between public transparency in elections and the privacy of donors supporting nonpartisan advocacy on important issues; and
- State and local election officials’ need for sufficient funding, capacity-building assistance, and reasonable timelines for implementation.
Independent Sector is deeply grateful to the authors of this legislation for addressing issues of such critical importance for civil society. We urge Congress to consider this legislation, and we look forward to working with policymakers as this pressing national conversation continues.”
Independent Sector is the only national membership organization that brings together a diverse community of changemakers, nonprofits, foundations, and corporations working to strengthen civil society and ensure all people in the United States thrive.