WASHINGTON, D.C. —On Jan. 11, 2022 U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senator Angus King (I-ME), and Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) in a voting rights press conference, where he spoke about the importance of protecting the right to vote as efforts are under way in jurisdictions across the country to make it harder for people to vote.
Kaine said during his remarks, “Throughout our history, we’ve made a lot of mistakes. One of the ways we’ve tried to protect against mistakes is broadening those who could participate… A functioning democracy gives you the ability to correct mistakes. Shrinking who can participate, putting burdens and obstacles in folks’ way – it’s not only harmful to those individuals whose rights are being taken away, but it dramatically weakens the ability of a functioning electorate to correct mistakes and change courses. And that is what is going on in these jurisdictions all over the country.”
Kaine also spoke about the record turnout during November’s gubernatorial election in Virginia, a 25% increase since the last governor’s race, in part thanks to reforms passed by the state legislature to make voting more convenient. He said, “The provisions of these bills are popular, but also just go to Virginia history. In November of 2019, Democrats took both houses of the Virginia legislature and one of the first things they did was dramatically expand the right of people to participate in Virginia elections … And we just had a Governor’s race and the turnout increased 25% from the 2017 Governor’s race to 2021, and a Republican won. That was not my candidate, that was not my preferred outcome, but it was a win for democracy because having made it easier for people to participate, guess what they did? That was the second greatest jump in gubernatorial turnout in Virginia history… You make it easier for people to vote and you pull obstacles out of their way and a whole lot more people vote and guess what? It can be good for Republicans … It can be good for Democrats … It’s good for democracy and that’s why we need to do this.”
Kaine, a former civil rights attorney, has long fought to protect voting rights and expand access to the ballot box. In September 2021, Kaine introduced the Freedom to Vote Act <https://www.kaine.senate.gov/press-releases/kaine-joins-klobuchar-and-colleagues-in-introducing-legislation-to-protect-freedom-to-vote-and-strengthen-our-democracy> to improve access to the ballot for Americans, advance commonsense election integrity reforms, and protect our democracy from attacks. The Freedom to Vote Act contains provisions expanding voting by mail, early voting, and taking other steps to make voting easier and safer.
Kaine is also an original cosponsor of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act <https://www.kaine.senate.gov/press-releases/warner-and-kaine-join-leahy-in-introducing-john-lewis-voting-rights-advancement-act> , introduced in October 2021. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore safeguards against potential restrictive changes to voting rules after the Supreme Court gutted those protections in its Shelby County decision in 2013.