On Bipartisan Democracy Reform, the For the People Act Can Deliver

United States Capitol Building.
The United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

The For the People Act (H.R. 1/S. 1) is a comprehensive piece of legislation that would address critical challenges facing our democracy. 

As Campaign Legal Center (CLC) has detailed, this bill will advance voting rights for all, strengthen ethics laws, increase transparency, curtail partisan gerrymandering, and decrease the influence of wealthy special interests in our political system. 

Now, CLC has created a new memo that examines the bipartisan lineage and bipartisan effect of key H.R. 1/S. 1 provisions. 

Congress Has Passed Bipartisan Democracy Reform Before, And It Can Do It Again 

Historically, when the country has confronted challenges to our democracy, Republicans and Democrats have come together to craft solutions. 

There are plenty of examples. In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act with bipartisan support, and it was renewed with broad bipartisan support for decades to come. 

In the 1970s, amid the corruption and pay-to-play revealed in the Watergate era, Republicans and Democrats worked together to reform campaign finance laws in the Federal Election Campaign Act. When wealthy special interests found loopholes in those laws throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Congress responded in 2002 with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. 

After the 2000 election revealed serious flaws in voting systems and processes, Republicans and Democrats in Congress worked together to pass the Help America Vote Act. 

And after the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal exposed flaws in federal lobbying laws, Congress in 2007 passed the bipartisan Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. 

American democracy is again in need of repair, and now is the time for Republicans and Democrats to act. The For the People Act presents a bipartisan opportunity to do so. 

Bipartisan Problems, Bipartisan Solutions

The democracy reforms in H.R. 1/S. 1 are drawn from bills that have long had bipartisan political sponsorship at both the federal and state levels. Moreover, the For the People Act would address problematic practices employed by both Democrats and Republicans. 

The For the People Act’s solutions are broadly supported by the American people, across the political spectrum. Polling indicates 67% of Americans—including 56% of Republican voters and 68% of Independent voters—support H.R. 1/S. 1. 

Politicians and special interest groups who want to preserve a broken status quo have criticized the reforms of the For the People Act as partisan—but, as CLC’s new memo shows, their critiques do not stand up to reality. 

Here are some examples of the bipartisanship of key H.R. 1/S. 1 provisions. For the full overview of how the H.R. 1/S. 1’s solutions are bipartisan, please read CLC’s memo

Transparency in Elections 

  • In the 2020 election, at least $750 million was spent by so-called “dark money” entities that kept their donors hidden from the public. In recent election cycles, more dark money has been reported supporting Democrats than Republicans. 

  • H.R. 1/S. 1 closes dark money loopholes by requiring disclosure when wealthy donors give $10,000 or more to groups that spend money on elections. 

  • Polls show that voters across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support transparency for political contributions: a 2019 CLC poll found that more than four-out-of-five voters (83%) support public disclosure of donations to politically active groups. 

  • Analogous disclosure bills have been introduced and passed at the state level on a bipartisan basis. For example, Montana’s dark money disclosure bill was introduced in 2015 by a Republican state senator and passed with bipartisan majorities in each chamber. 

Early Voting 

  • Voters of all political stripes can face obstacles in getting to the polls on Election Day, including disabilities, employment obligations, or childcare needs. Drawing from the lessons of Republican and Democratic states, H.R. 1/S. 1 would ensure that voters in all states, of any political party, can access at least 14 days of early voting. 

  • The vast majority of states (39 states), both red and blue, provide for early voting, with the average early voting period running 19 days. Both Republicans and Democrats have long taken advantage of early voting in the states where it is available. Consistent and predictable early voting access helps shorten lines on Election Day and makes it easier for election officials to identify and resolve problems early in the process. 

Independent Redistricting Commissions (IRCs) 

  • In red, blue, and purple states alike, partisan state legislators have manipulated the redistricting process to consolidate their own political power. H.R. 1/S. 1’s solution is to require that each state establish an IRC responsible for developing and enacting congressional redistricting plans. 

  • Republicans and Democrats in states across the country have turned to IRCs to ensure that district boundaries are not beholden to any political party. The reform reflects the solutions offered in bipartisan bills like the “Citizen Legislature Anti-Corruption Reform of Elections Act.” 

  • A 2017 CLC poll found that an overwhelming majority (73%) of voters support removing partisan bias from redistricting, even if it means their preferred political party will win fewer seats. 

Federal Election Commission (FEC) Reform: Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections 

  • The failure of the FEC to enforce campaign finance laws has resulted in an explosion in secret spending and our politics increasingly rigged in favor of wealthy special interests. 

  • H.R. 1/ S. 1’s bipartisan FEC reforms will help ensure that the campaign finance laws that protect the voices of everyday Americans will be enforced, regardless of whether the lawbreaker is a Democrat or Republican. Under the agency’s current six-member structure, the FEC has become hopelessly deadlocked, and routinely fails to enforce the law against anybody—Democrat or Republican. 

  • H.R. 1/S. 1 draws from the bipartisan “Restoring Integrity to America's Elections Act.” That bill, which among other things changes the FEC to a five-member commission, was introduced with Republican and Democratic co-sponsors in 2015, 2017, and 2019. 

Please read CLC’s memo for the entire list of examples. 

A Historic Opportunity 

Election administration, partisan gerrymandering, the flow of untraceable dark money, and the influence of wealthy special interests over our elections and government are problems that demand solutions. H.R. 1/S. 1 does just that.