ANDERSON – A recent Facebook post from an affiliate of the conservative Heritage Foundation accuses Senate Democrats of mounting a crusade against election integrity.

It calls the Freedom to Vote Act the “Freedom to Cheat Act,” and it nicknames an earlier bill, the For the People Act, “The Corrupt Politicians Act.” Both bills, it says, would “automatically register ineligible voters.”

That’s not exactly true. “While there is a provision in the Freedom to Vote Act that requires states to offer automatic voter registration,” the fact-checking website PolitiFact states, “the goal is to make it easier for eligible citizens to register at their state motor-vehicle offices, and the wording in the bill repeatedly clarifies that only eligible citizens can vote in federal elections.”

Scary stories are nothing new in this fight. Speaking at a hearing before the Senate Rules Committee last spring, Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas labeled the For the People Act  “Jim Crow 2.0.” “This legislation would register millions of illegal aliens to vote,” he said. “It is intended to do that.”

Cruz claimed the measure would “dilute the legal votes of American citizens.”

“This bill doesn’t protect voting rights,” he said. “It steals voting rights from the American people.”

PolitiFact says none of that is true. “Although glitches and malfunctions of automatic registration systems have been recorded, they are rare and easily corrected,” the website states. “We rate this claim Pants on Fire.”

What the legislation really does is make permanent many of the temporary measures that led to record turnout in the 2020 presidential election, the one Donald Trump falsely claims was rife with cheating. The bill expands early voting and makes voting by mail easier. It restores voting rights to people with felony convictions as long as they have completed their sentences.

Above all, it restores protections of the 56-year-old Voting Rights Act, a law that has seen its provisions gutted in recent years by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for bipartisanship as he sought just to begin talking about the legislation. “I hope that our Republican colleagues will join us in good faith, and as I have said before, if they have ideas on how to improve the legislation, we are prepared to hear them, debate them, and if they are in line with the goals of the legislation, include them in the bill,” Schumer wrote. “But Republicans must come to the table to have that conversation and at the very least vote to open debate.”

Schumer needed 10 Republican votes to end the filibuster. He got not a single one. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his caucus held firm. The protection of voting rights was once a bipartisan issue. Fifteen years ago, a Republican-controlled Senate renewed the measure by a vote of 96-0. The bill had passed a Republican-controlled House of Representatives by a vote of 390-33.

At a ceremony where he signed the legislation into law, Republican President George W. Bush recalled that in some states passage of the Voting Rights Act had marked the first appearance of African Americans on the voter rolls since Reconstruction. Among those first-time voters was 81-year-old Willie Bolden, the grandson of slaves. Bolden told a reporter that casting his ballot made him feel like he was somebody.

“In the America promised by our founders, every citizen is a somebody,” the president said, “and every generation has a responsibility to add its own chapter to the unfolding story of freedom.”

The work toward a more perfect union, he said, is never ending. “We’ll continue to build on the legal equality won by the civil rights movement to help ensure that every person enjoys the opportunity that this great land of liberty offers,” he said.

Someone ought to tell Mitch McConnell. 

Hawes is a columnist for CNHI.