H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021, was introduced and referred to House Committees on January 4. It is a bill intended “To expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy, and for other purposes.”
I can’t tell you how much we need this bill to pass.
It’s a huge bill, so I can only provide a few highlights. If my discussion doesn’t include your favorite voting reform idea, that doesn’t mean it isn’t in there, somewhere. And of course the committees are going to tinker with it for awhile, but here is a brief discussion of what’s in this bill’s three divisions — Voting, Campaign Finance, and Ethics.
Here’s a bullet list of the voting section I copied from Common Cause.
- Automatic voter registration
- Online voter registration
- Same day voter registration
- Make election day a federal holiday
- Voting rights restoration to people with prior felony convictions
- Expand early voting and simplify absentee voting
- Prohibit voter purges that kick eligible voters off the registration rolls
- Enhance election security with increase support for a paper-based voting system and more oversight over election vendors
- End partisan gerrymandering by established independent redistricting commissions
- Prohibit providing false information about the elections process that discourage voting and other deceptive practices
Note the part about ending partisan gerrymandering. That by itself would go a long way toward forcing the GOP to sober up and act like a grown-up political party again, IMO.
One section reaffirms the commitment of Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act. I’ll quote this part —
The Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted decades-long Federal pro3 tections for communities of color that face historic and continuing discrimination, emboldening States and local jurisdictions to pass voter suppression laws and implement procedures, such as those requiring photo identification, limiting early voting hours, eliminating same-day registration, purging voters from the rolls, and reducing the number of polling places. Congress is committed to reversing the devastating impact of this decision.
From there, the bill discusses specific examples of discrimination from recent elections. The bill would ensure that federal civil rights laws protect citizens from these discriminations. There are also provisions aimed at protecting access to voting for Native Americans and people with disabilities.
There’s a section calling for D.C. statehood. It also calls for uniform standards in federal elections.
Here’s the bullet list for this section:
- Require secret money organizations that spend money in elections to disclose their donors
- Upgrade online political spending transparency rules to ensure voters know who is paying for the advertisements they see
- Create a small donor-focused public financing matching system so candidates for Congress aren’t just reliant on big money donors to fund their campaigns and set their priorities
- Strengthen oversight rules to ensure those who break our campaign finance laws are held accountable
- Overhaul the Federal Election Commission to enforce campaign finance law
- Prohibit the use of shell companies to funnel foreign money in U.S. elections
- Require government contractors to disclose their political spending
There’s a long section that takes direct aim at the Citizen’s United decision that’s worth reading on it’s own. It starts on page 533 on this pdf.
There’s a section dedicated to closing loopholes that allow foreign money into our elections. There’s language prohibiting deepfakes and otherwise deceptively edited audios or videos unless there’s a clear disclaimer, e.g., this video has been manipulated. A candidate who is the subject of deceptively edited audios or videos can sue for damages.
- Slow the revolving door between government officials and lobbyists
- Expand conflict of interest law
- Ban members of Congress from serving on corporate boards
- Require presidents to publicly disclose their tax returns
- Overhaul the Office of Government Ethics to ensure stronger enforcement of ethics rules
- Require members of the U.S. Supreme Court abide by a judicial code of ethics
I’m sure you already know where all those provisions are coming from.
The Common Cause page has more information and links to other summaries. See also:
Center for Responsive Politics, Democrats prioritize campaign finance overhaul with ‘For the People Act’
Matt Keller, The Hill, Trump actions illustrate why Congress must pass the For the People Act
Center for American Progress, Momentum Builds for Democracy Reform as Schumer Designates the For the People Act as Senate’s First Bill
This bill is what we need to stop the continued erosion of democracy by right-wing plutocrats and fascists and Trump wannabees, never mind Trump himself It is absolutely vital to restoring democracy. Without it, I fear we’re going to continue to lurch toward ruin and dictatorship.
But of course, the catch is that there is no way this bill will pass in the Senate unless the Dems kill the filibuster. Ed Kilgore, New York magazine:
To put it bluntly, the lesson many Republicans took away from their former president’s attempted theft of the presidential election is that the voters who defeated him need to be discouraged from returning to the polls in the future. As Ron Brownstein notes, there’s a new frenzy of voter-suppression measures underway in Republican-controlled states that may hold the balance of power in upcoming elections: …
… The urgency of these measures should be obvious, with red states narrowing the path to the ballot box and with the decennial redistricting about to begin. And unlike many other measures facing a filibuster, voting rights and democracy-promotion legislation does not qualify for inclusion in a budget-reconciliation bill that can be enacted with a simple majority. So in many important respects, it’s now or never for voting rights. …
… In any event, Democrats in Congress and the White House and their advocacy-group and grassroots supporters need to come to a quick consensus about how to test the willingness of Democratic filibuster defenders like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and relatively independent Republicans like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, to make some new exceptions to the disreputable old institution. Voting rights might offer the most compelling case for limited filibuster reform, and for Democrats, the cause without which all others may ultimately fail.
Kilgore suggests that the foot-draggers might be persuaded to kill the filibuster specifically for voting rights legislation, leaving it intact for other laws. I think that’s a good idea. He also suggests testing the waters by putting the John Lewis Voting Rights Act up for a vote first.
But we absolutely need this bill. I am stick to death of the right-wing nutjobs turning our country into crap. It has to stop.