House Democrats’ campaign finance and voting reform bill, HR 1, the For The People Act, recently made its way out of the House. As we wait for it to be brought to a vote in the Senate, we will be chronicling the different game-changing aspects of the bill in a series of blogs titled: What’s in HR 1?
For more than two decades, the Motor Voter Act, officially called the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, has required all state governments to offer voter registration to eligible citizens who apply for public assistance or a driver license. Now HR 1 wants to take things a step further.
If successful, HR 1 would enable voters to register online or be registered to vote automatically via data held by government sources like the Department of Motor Vehicles. Unlike with the Motor Voter Act, this bill makes it so citizens of legal voting age must opt-out of voter registration rather than opting-in. By the end of 2018, only 16 states and DC had automatic voter registration, making this an expansion to more than half of the country. The bill would also make Election Day a federal holiday, require states to allow same-day registration, and mandate a minimum of 15 days of early voting.
Recently, America ranked 26 out of 32 when it comes to voter turnout among developed countries. Of the people who were eligible to vote in 2016 but did not, 20% blamed difficulties registering to vote as the main obstacle they faced, making this legislation a welcome fix. In Oregon, for example, registration rates quadrupled after the state implemented automatic voter registration at Department of Motor Vehicle offices. Studies also show that same-day and online voter registration increases participation.
As it is now, many Americans simply do not have time to vote on Election Day, or to go through the arduous process some states have of registering before certain deadlines or at certain locations. Not only that, but many cannot get time off work, cannot find childcare, have mobility issues– the list goes on. As a democracy, removing hurdles to the ballot box so as many eligible voters as possible can participate in our electoral system is a necessity.
All Americans can agree that our democracy works best when more citizens are heard. The only way to do this is by making registering to vote more accessible and giving as many opportunities as possible for voters to cast their ballot. HR 1’s voting measures do just that. As a result, we’re going to see increased voter turnout and elections that better reflect the will of voters.