House Passes Sweeping Democracy Reforms
Washington, D.C. – The House voted today to enact a sweeping package of transformational and comprehensive democracy reforms to put power back in the hands of the American people.
Managed by Committee on House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), H.R. 1 would end the dominance of big money in politics, make it easier, not harder, to vote, and ensure that politicians actually serve the public interest through real government ethics and accountability reforms.
In the face of efforts to restrict voting opportunities by state legislatures around America, Lofgren underscored the need for comprehensive, structural democracy reform:
“The time is now to ensure each American has the same free, fair, secure, and equitable access to the ballot. For too long, barriers to participation made it harder for communities of color and other underrepresented groups to vote. Too many Americans view themselves as shut out of our representative system.
“Our dear colleague, the late Congressman John Lewis, would remind us that ‘the vote is precious, almost sacred.’ I’m pleased H.R. 1 takes the steps necessary to protect and improve access to that sacred vote.
“The American people deserve an end to the era of secret special interest groups funding our elections. They deserve a government that accountable and transparent. I’m pleased H.R. 1 will empower Americans and ensure Washington follows a strong set of ethics.
“H.R. 1 is a major, comprehensive step forward, a step that we must take if we are to be true to the promise of our representative government. I’m hopeful the Senate will act on it soon to restore our democracy.”
H.R. 1, the For the People Act, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 220 – 210 on March 3, 2021.
This legislation makes critical reforms across three key areas:
CLEAN AND FAIR ELECTIONS
- Improve Access – H.R. 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. H.R. 1 will create automatic voter registration across the country, ensure that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full voting rights restored, expand early voting and enhance absentee voting, simplify voting by mail, reduce long lines and wait times for voters, and modernize America’s voting system.
- Promote Integrity – H.R. 1 commits Congress to build the record necessary to restore the Voting Rights Act, as embodied by the House-passed H.R. 4. It also commits Congress to deliver full congressional voting rights and self-government for 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.
- Ensure Security – H.R. 1 ensures that American elections are decided by American voters, without interference, by enhancing federal support for voting system security, particularly with paper ballots and also by increasing oversight of election system vendors and by requiring the development of a national strategy to protect U.S. democratic institutions.
END THE DOMINANCE OF BIG MONEY IN OUR POLITICS
- Guarantee Disclosure – H.R. 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. H.R. 1 also breaks the so-called ‘nesting-doll’ sham that allows big-money contributors and special interests to hide the true funding source of their political spending.
- Empower Citizens – H.R. 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 completely paid for by a new surcharge on corporate law breakers and wealthy tax cheats. That way, the individuals and corporations who break the public trust bear the cost of building a more just and equitable democracy. H.R. 1 also reaffirms Congress’ authority to regulate money in politics, pushing back on the Supreme Court’s wrong-headed Citizens United decision.
- Strengthen Oversight – H.R. 1 ensures that there are cops on the campaign finance beat that will enforce the laws on the books. H.R. 1 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 that prevent government agencies from requiring commonsense disclosure of political spending.
ENSURE PUBLIC SERVANTS WORK FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST
- Fortify Ethics Law – H.R. 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.
- Impose Greater Ethics Enforcement – H.R. 1 gives teeth to 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.
For Chairperson’s introductory remarks on H.R. 1 on the House Floor, click here.
For more information about H.R. 1, the For the People Act, click here.