Last year’s election underscored the need for comprehensive, structural democracy reform. Americans across the country were forced to overcome rampant voter suppression, gerrymandering and a torrent of special-interest dark money just to exercise their vote and their voice in our democracy. It’s time to fix this!
To address these issues and restore faith in our democratic processes, our national Democratic leaders have introduced as their No. 1 priority in the 117th Congress passage of H.R. 1 (and S. 1, its companion bill in the U.S. Senate), the For the People Act of 2021 — a transformational anti-corruption and clean elections reform package.
The key features of this legislation are:
Provides for clean and fair elections
· Improves Access – H.R. 1/S. 1 expands access to the ballot box by taking aim at institutional barriers to voting, including cumbersome voter registration systems, disenfranchisement and limited voting hours. It creates automatic voter registration across the country, ensures that the voting rights of individuals who have completed felony sentences arefully restored, expands early voting and enhances absentee voting, simplifies voting by mail, reduces long lines and wait times for voters and modernizes America’s voting system.
· Promotes Integrity — H.R. 1/S. 1 commits Congress to restoring the Voting Rights Act, as embodied by the House-passed H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. It also commits Congress to deliver full congressional voting rights and self-government to the residents of the District of Columbia, which only statehood can provide, prohibits voter roll purges like those seen in Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere, and ends partisan gerrymandering to prevent politicians from picking their voters.
· Ensures Security — H.R. 1/S. 1 ensures that American elections are decided by American voters, without interference, by providing more federal support for voting system security, particularly with paper ballots and also by increasing oversight of election system vendors. The bill also requires development of a national strategy to protect U.S. democratic institutions.
Ends the dominance of big money in our politics
· Guarantees Disclosure – H.R. 1/S. 1 shines a light on dark money in politics by upgrading online political ad disclosure and requiring all organizations involved in political activity to disclose their large donors. It also breaks the so-called “nesting-doll” sham that allows big-money contributors and special interests to hide the true funding sources of their political spending.
· Empowers Citizens – H.R. 1/S. 1 strengthens the political power of hardworking Americans by creating a multiple matching system for small donations. This innovative, 21st-century system of citizen-owned elections will break the stranglehold of special interests on Congress and lay the groundwork for an agenda that meets the needs of the American people. The voluntary, multiple-matching system will be paid for by a new surcharge on corporate lawbreakers and wealthy tax cheats. That way, the individuals and corporations who break the public trust — like Wells Fargo, which created fake bank accounts for unwitting customers, or Volkswagen, which lied about harmful carbon emissions from its vehicles, or Facebook, which violates Americans’ privacy, and Purdue Pharma, which fueled the opioid crisis — will bear the cost of building a more just and equitable democracy. The bill also reaffirms congressional authority to regulate money in politics, pushing back on the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
· Strengthens Oversight – H.R. 1/S. 1 ensures there are cops on the campaign finance beat that will enforce the laws on the books. It tightens rules on super PACs and restructures the Federal Election Commission to break the gridlock and enhance its enforcement mechanisms. It also repeals Mitch McConnell’s riders,which prevent government agencies from requiring commonsense disclosure of political spending.
Ensures public servants work for the public interest
· Fortifies Ethics Laws – H.R. 1/S. 1 breaks the influence economy in Washington and increases accountability by expanding conflict of interest law and divestment requirements, slowing the revolving door, preventing members of Congress from serving on corporate boards and requiring presidents to disclose their tax returns.
· Imposes Greater Ethics Enforcement — H.R. 1/S. 1 puts teeth in federal ethics oversight by overhauling the Office of Government Ethics, closing loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents, ensuring watchdogs have sufficient resources to enforce the law and creating a code of ethics for the Supreme Court.
What can you do?
Opportunities to pass comprehensive reform legislation like this are rare. We have a Democratic President and narrow Democratic majority in both houses of Congress for the first time in many years. However, nothing is guaranteed in Washington. Unless there is a strong groundswell of support by the American citizens, this bill will likely die in the Senate or will be severely watered down.
We need to write to our representatives in the House and Senate, urging them to approve this critical legislation.