• The US House passed HR 1, Democrats’ flagship democracy reform package.
  • The bill includes major voting rights expansions and stricter regulations on campaign spending.
  • The legislation passed along party lines by a vote of 220-210.

The House passed H.R. 1, Democrats’ flagship democracy reform and voting rights legislative package, in a Wednesday night vote.

The bill, dubbed the For the People Act, was first introduced and passed by the House, at the beginning of the 116th Congress in 2019, but was not taken up in the Senate.

The law makes major changes requiring more transparency in the US’ campaign finance system, sets stricter standards for lobbyists, and includes a slew of measures to increase access to the ballot box, including expansions of voter registration opportunities, mail and early voting, and expanded election security measures.
In 2021, the bill passed along party lines by a vote of 220-210.

But the Senate version of the legislation, S. 1, faces a much steeper uphill battle to get the 60 votes required to withstand the filibuster in the US Senate, which is evenly split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.

Democrats are touting the measure as a critical bulwark against the excesses of money in politics and to guard against ongoing efforts to restrict voting access by states in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

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“In the wake of an unprecedented assault on our democracy, a never before seen effort to ignore, undermine, and undo the will of the people, and a newly aggressive attack on voting rights taking place right now all across the country, this landmark legislation is urgently needed to protect the right to vote and the integrity of our election,” the White House said in a statement supporting the bill.

Conservatives, however, have criticized the legislation as a partisan power-grab and a massive federal overreach into election administration, which is primarily controlled by states and localities in the United States.
“H.R. 1 federally mandates how states run their elections and forces a one-size-fits-all election system on our country, which is not only unconstitutional, but can lead to chaos and confusion for voters,” House Administration Committee ranking member Rep. Rodney Davis said in a February 25 hearing.

Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday, former President Donald Trump, who spent most of 2020 pushing false claims of voter fraud, called the bill “a disaster,” saying, “this monster must be stopped.”

The US House passes H.R. 1, a major voting rights and campaign finance reform package
In this Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, file photo, a voter check with the registration table as he prepares to cast his ballots under a giant mural at Robious Elementary School on Election Day, in Midlothian, Va.AP Photo/Steve Helber, File

Congress has not passed major voting-related legislation since the Help America Vote Act in 2002, which among other things, gave states funding to purchase new voting equipment, standardized voter list maintenance procedures, and created the US Election Assistance Commission.

The For the People Act aims to increase transparency in the US’ campaign finance system by cracking down on foreign financial influence in US elections, requiring 501c(4) “dark money” groups to disclose political donations over a certain amount, and mandating digital platforms to create publicly-available databases of ad purchases.

The legislation further creates a 6-to-1 public matching system for small campaign donations to candidates for federal office, including House members and presidential candidates. House leadership struck a deal with moderate House Democrats to clarify that the matching funds will not come from taxpayer coffers and to allow members to opt out, Politico reported.

The bill also takes aim at the political influence industry, beefing up existing laws and regulations governing lobbying and ethics requirements for federal officials.

The package also includes sweeping, large-scale election administration reforms and enhancements to election security procedures.
It mandates states to enact online, automatic, and same-day voter registration and to give voting rights to the formerly incarcerated, and softens voter ID laws by allowing voters to sign sworn affidavits instead of showing an ID. The bill also requires all states to hold 15 days of early voting as well as no-excuse mail voting while offering online ballot tracking, prepaid postage, and the option for voters to return their ballots at drop boxes.

The bill also addresses partisan gerrymandering by requiring independent commissions to conduct congressional redistricting in each state, and directs Congress to compile a record to pass a renewed version of the Voting Rights Act.



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