Senate Should Take Up Landmark Democracy Bill, For the People Act

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

On the first day of the new Congress in January 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced its first bill – For the People Act – or HR 1. Last week, the House passed the bill, which is a giant step toward addressing the most pressing challenges of our democracy.

Given the troubling injuries to our democracy inflicted by several recent Supreme Court decisions, this legislative solution is sorely needed. The Supreme Court has chipped away at key safeguards, including the Voting Rights Act and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, both put in place to protect the integrity of our elections.

Without these measures in place, we’ve seen increased voter suppression all across the country and unprecedented dark money in campaigns. Now, there is a sense across the nation that American democracy no longer functions.

CLC strongly supports HR 1 and the comprehensive effort to make our democracy more accessible, transparent and responsive to the citizens of our great nation.

Some of the key provisions of the bill include:

  • Simplifying and modernizing voter registration by requiring automatic registration, online registration and same day registration. The bill would also expand access to voting through early voting, mail in voting, and greater protections for voters with disabilities. Importantly, it also lays the groundwork for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act.
  • Shining a light on dark money by requiring disclosure of the true funders of election ads and modernize rules so they apply online, where most election ads are placed. This is especially important now because legal loopholes have opened the door to foreign powers looking to execute nefarious online campaigns. In the 2016 presidential election, Russian accounts manipulated Facebook, Twitter, and Google users to “confuse, distract and ultimately discourage” them from voting. Thus, by extending transparency requirements to digital platforms, the bill could help stem foreign meddling, helping us conduct free and fair elections.
  • Multiplying the power of small donors in our political system with matching funds for candidates. Smartly designed public financing systems used at the city level have proven to broaden political engagement by increasing participation of average citizens in the funding of campaigns. It is time that all Americans get the same benefits.

HR 1 garnered support from a diverse coalition of hundreds of organizations. 82 percent of voters in battleground states – including 84 percent of Independents – support the legislation. The same poll showed that in those states, 75 percent of voters said cracking down on corruption was their top legislative priority.

It’s expected that the bill will be introduced in the Senate soon, and it is important that the Senate call a vote on HR 1 so all members are on the record about where they stand on democracy reform. Voters want and expect a democracy that’s open to the American people, and senators should not hide behind legislative procedures to avoid a vote on this bill.