As their first order of business, House Democrats introduced HR 1 as soon as the new 2019 Congress came into session. An anti-corruption, pro-democracy reform bill, the For The People Act is aimed at improving our democracy for all Americans by limiting the corrupting influence of money in politics and making voting easier, not harder. Today, it passed in the House without any Republican support.
Here are a few of the groundbreaking changes to our voting and campaign finance systems included in HR 1:
- Automatic voter registration, same day voter registration and internet voter registration. The bill would also make interfering in voter registration a federal crime.
- Restoration of voting rights to convicted felons after serving their sentence.
- Voting to be done by verifiable paper ballots.
- Requirement of at least 15 days of early voting and voting by mail.
- Election Day to become a federal holiday.
- Current election officials no longer to be allowed to run for federal office.
- DISCLOSE Act, which includes:
- Ban on foreign money.
- Disclosure of dark money (unlimited donations to nonprofits which can be spent on elections and previously did not require disclosure).
- IRS to regulate 501(c)4 organizations.
- Presidential inaugural committees must disclose funding and spending.
- Corporations must disclose political spending.
- Digital companies must set up public databases listing political ad purchase requests of $500 or more.
- Public matching for House candidates (Senate must include their own provision to provide public matching for Senate candidates):
- 6:1 public match up to $200 per contributor, i.e. if one donates $200 to a candidate, the government will contribute $1200 to that candidate.
- Candidates must reject large donations to be eligible.
- Candidates must demonstrate broad public support.
- Institution of oversight commission to enforce ban on candidates and super PACs coordinating.
With two-thirds of Americans feeling that big donors have greater political influence than the average voter, this bill couldn’t come at a greater time, even if House Republicans refuse to see it that way. Thankfully, enough representatives in Congress not only understand how vitally important is it to restore faith in our democracy and make political equality a reality, but are also not threatened by greater transparency in campaign finance.
Ultimately, we must all agree that our democracy requires that more voices, not fewer, are heard and treated equally in our electoral processes. House Democrats proved they are willing to stand up to protect and improve our democracy. Now the spotlight is on the upper chamber. It’s time to finally see who in the Senate wants to restore our democracy, and who is controlled by the donor class.