Abstract Cell-free expression systems enable rapid prototyping of genetic programs in vitro. However, current throughput of cell-free measurements is limited by the use of channel-limited fluorescent readouts. Here, we describe DNA Regulatory element Analysis by cell-Free Transcription and Sequencing (DRAFTS), a rapid and robust in vitro approach for multiplexed measurement of transcriptional activities from thousands of regulatory sequences in a single reaction. We employ this method in active cell lysates developed from ten diverse bacterial species. Interspecies analysis of transcriptional profiles from > 1,000 diverse regulatory sequences reveals functional differences in promoter activity that can be quantitatively modeled, providing a rich resource for tuning gene expression in diverse bacterial species. Finally, we examine the transcriptional capacities of dual-species hybrid lysates that can simultaneously harness gene expression properties of multiple organisms. We expect that this cell-free multiplex transcriptional measurement approach will improve genetic part prototyping in new bacterial chassis for synthetic biology.