Democracy Reform We Need Now! -For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R. 1&4)
H.R. 1, along with H.R. 4, John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and H.R. 51, the D.C. statehood bill, are the cornerstones of the necessary reforms we need to unrig our democracy and make it work for all. (See our Blogs on DC Statehood and Eliminating the Filibuster)
For the People Act - H.R. 1
H.R. 1 includes the following:
Voter empowerment and access
H.R. 1 helps ensure that everyone is included and represented in our democracy, and has unimpeded opportunities to participate through the following measures:
Addressing gerrymandering by requiring states to establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions for congressional redistricting
Ending prison gerrymandering by counting prisoners at their last address (rather than where they’re incarcerated) for the purposes of redistricting
Automatic voter registration at an array of state agencies
Same-day voter registration
Online voter registration
Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register so they’ll be on the rolls when they turn 18
Allowing state colleges and universities to serve as registration agencies
Banning states from purging eligible voters’ registration simply for infrequent voting
Two weeks of in-person early voting, including availability on Sundays and outside of normal business hours
Standardized hours within states for opening and closing polling places on Election Day, with exceptions to let cities set longer hours in municipal races
Prepaid postage on mail ballots
Allowing voters to turn in their mail ballot in person if they choose
Ending felony disenfranchisement for those on parole, probation, or post-sentence, and requiring such citizens to be supplied with registration forms and informed their voting rights have been restored.
Money in politics
A constitutional amendment is needed to overturn the chaos that Citizens United and related decisions unleashed into our campaign finance system. H.R. 1 starts that process immediately. Additionally, it further stems the tide of big money in our politics by amplifying small-dollar donations through public financing, encouraging small-dollar donations through tax incentives, eliminating “dark money” by requiring disclosure of all political spending (including online ads), cutting off cooperation between candidates and super PACs, and empowering the Federal Election Commission to truly enforce campaign finance law.
Ethics and corruption
Trump and his cronies regularly engaged in self-dealing, corruption, and conflicts of interest, without a single rebuke from the Republican-controlled Congress. H.R. 1 cracks down by making sure that ethics rules apply to all government officials - including the President. This means demanding disclosure of and divestment from financial interests that pose conflicts of interest, and then for the rest of the executive branch locking the “revolving door” of lobbyists and government officials, prohibiting bribery, and demanding full disclosure of information revealing potential and actual conflicts of interest.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Act – H.R. 4
This legislation Is necessary to restore essential voting rights.
In 2013, the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act and set the stage for the rampant increase in voter suppression we’ve seen throughout the country. The original Voting Rights Act of 1965 required states with a record of racial discrimination and voter suppression to submit any change in election procedures for approval in advance before any changes could take place. This approval process was called preclearance. Shelby County eliminated preclearance requirements, allowing states and other election administrators to enact blatant voter suppression without oversight from the federal government. While many of those suppressive tactics can and are challenged after implementation, it’s a lot harder to undo the damage after the fact than it is when discriminatory election laws are prevented from being enacted in the first place.
H.R. 4, which is named after the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, a man who risked his life for the right to vote, would re-establish the pre clearance requirements that were thrown out in Shelby County, among other voter protections. It would also require pre clearance on a nationwide scale for practices that disproportionately affect communities of color such as:
Changing election practices in diverse areas
Changing documents required to vote or to register to vote
Reducing access based on language
Reducing polling locations in diverse areas
If turned into law, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act would be a crucial protection against racist voter suppression tactics while strengthening our electoral system as a whole.
Passing H.R. 1, the For the People Act, H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and H.R. 51, the D.C. Statehood bill, are essential first steps toward achieving any of our policy goals during the Biden administration. We must begin to unrig our democracy so every American has an equitable voice in our government. Call your Representative and demand they support and move swiftly on the For the People Act and The John Lewis Voting Rights Act as well as the D.C. statehood bill. Then, call your Senators and demand the same thing.
Check out Indivisible Evanston’s 2021 Priorities here.