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VICTORY! U.S. House Advances Historic Pro-Democracy Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 234-193 on Friday in favor of the For the People Act of 2019 ‚ÄĒ a sweeping democracy reform bill. The measure, also known as H.R. 1, was introduced by House Democrats in January and marks the first time in decades Congress has made comprehensive elections reform a¬† priority.

Democracy North Carolina executive Director Tomas Lopez applauded the historic vote.

“The¬†For the People Act would address on the national level many of the reforms Democracy North Carolina has worked hard to address in North Carolina: expanding voting rights, addressing gerrymandering, fixing campaign financing rules, and strengthening election ethics,” said Lopez. “These are precisely the types of proven reforms that could not only help build political power for historically-marginalized voters, but could also only restore the nation’s faith in our democracy as we move into a high-profile presidential election year. We applaud the House’s sweeping action, and encourage the Senate to follow suit.”

 

‚ÄúThese are precisely the types of proven reforms that could...restore the nation's faith in our democracy as we move into a high-profile presidential election year. ‚ÄĚ ‚ÄďTomas Lopez, Democracy NC

 

The key elements of H.R. 1

Provided by The Brennan Center for Social Justice

The Brennan Center has documented many of the reforms outlined in H.R. 1‚ÄĒincluding automatic voter registration¬†and¬†small-donor public financing, among others. Additional key provisions in H.R. 1 include a commitment to fully restoring the¬†Voting Rights Act,¬†redistricting¬†reforms, nationwide¬†early voting, and¬†ethics.

Here are several of the bill’s key provisions:

  • Streamlining Voter Registration:¬†H.R. 1 would bring¬†Automatic¬†and¬†Same-Day¬†Voter Registration to voters across the country. Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) is a transformative reform under which eligible voters are automatically registered when they provide information to the government at the DMV or other government agencies, unless they opt out. Since 2015, 15 states and the District of Columbia have approved AVR, leading to big gains in registration. If adopted nationwide, AVR could add as many as 50 million new voters to the rolls.¬†Same-Day Registration (SDR) allows eligible voters to register at the polls on Election Day, making it less likely that voters will be disenfranchised by last-minute registration problems. It is already offered in 16 states. Combined with AVR, SDR would solve most of the serious registration problems voters experienced in 2016 and 2018.
  • Commitment to Restore the Voting Rights Act.¬†H.R. 1 reaffirms Congress‚Äôs commitment to¬†restore the full protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights law that was hobbled by the Supreme Court‚Äôs 2013¬†Shelby County¬†decision.¬†Shelby County¬†enabled states to pass a wave of restrictive voting measures and set the stage for the brazen attempts at voter suppression we saw in 2018. The bill makes clear that Congress is committed to reversing the effects of the Supreme Court‚Äôs decision.
  • Nationwide Early Voting.¬†H.R. 1 also would ensure that all voters have at least two weeks of¬†early voting, including evening and weekend hours.¬†Early voting, which is offered in most but not all states, boosts turnout for those who may have difficulty getting to the polls ‚ÄĒ such as working Americans and those providing childcare ‚ÄĒ and reduces long lines on Election Day. It also provides an important protection for election integrity by allowing officials to spot and address problems well in advance of Election Day. Early voting is extremely popular with voters and helped fuel record-breaking turnout in 2018.
  • Citizen-Funded Elections.¬†H.R. 1 would create a¬†small-donor matching¬†system for Congressional races¬†and revamp the matching system for presidential contests. Small-donor matching is an innovative reform that uses public funds to amplify small private donations. The bill would provide qualified presidential and congressional candidates with $6 in public funds for every $1 raised from small donors. A similar program has existed for decades in New York City, where it has diversified the donor pool, helped candidates of modest means run for office, and allowed elected officials to spend more time talking to their constituents instead of dialing for dollars. The bill also increases presidential public financing for general elections.
  • Gerrymandering Reform.¬†H.R. 1 would curb extreme partisan gerrymandering by ensuring that states draw congressional districts using¬†independent redistricting commissions¬†whose members represent diverse communities across the state, by establishing fair redistricting criteria, and by mandating greater transparency for the redistricting process.
  • Election Security.¬†H.R. 1 also contains a number of provisions to improve election security, including a requirement that states¬†replace paperless voting machines, new grants to help states enhance election security on an ongoing basis and develop better processes for auditing disputed election results, and new security requirements for election system vendors (including an obligation to report cybersecurity breaches).
  • Ethics Reform.¬†Finally, H.R. 1¬†shores up government ethics¬†by strengthening enforcement of ethics rules in the Executive Branch, requiring disclosure of presidential tax returns, tightening restrictions on congressional conflicts of interest, and requiring the Supreme Court to adopt a code of ethics.