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house Bill H.R. 1

For the People Act: Reforming Campaign Finance, Gov't Ethics, and Voter Protection Laws

Argument in favor

The current political system is broken, corrupt, and badly in need of reform. This ambitious bill restores the promise of government for and by the people by ending money’s influence in politics, re-enfranchising felons, strengthening voter protections, making it easier to vote, and more. It is especially needed now, after a historically contentious 2020 presidential election and in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud after his loss.

jimK's Opinion
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03/03/2021
The biggest factor damaging our country is the big money interests that dominate our political processes. Citizens United must be done away with because this has become the primary vehicle that encourages political corruption. The PAC system allows commercial interests to buy political favor because there is a greater return on their big money investments by buying political favor than there is for capitalistic investments to provide better products and services than competitors. The PACs are supposed to be completely separate from the politicians that they support, and this has been widely ignored. The Trump has a PAC that supports him. The trump’s campaign PAC was managed by his campaign manager’s wife! The PAC system has been grossly abused as a direct funnel from big money to political parties - and no one seems to care! Republicans will rant that electing Democrats will result in socialism like that of Venezuela. OK, based on what specifically? Why specifically? It sure scares people but there are absolutely no facts that supports that conclusion. Just fear. … … … The big money allows political parties to regiment their membership to toe the party line instead of voting their conscience and losing their seat, their donors, their ‘soft-money’ gifts, insider trading information and all of the protections afforded congresspeople. It is why there is such interest in gerrymandering districts and suppressing opposition party voters. Big money corrupts and that corruption results in graft, emolument violations, self-serving actions and illicit quid pro quo relations such as the trumpublican party had with the trump. The trump let McConnell make the judicial nominations that McConnell wanted and rolled back most of the regulations that added to the costs of commercial interests despite the damage done to the populace in return for the trumpublican’s refusal to hold the trump’s increasing egregious abuses in check. … … … The RNC has a gerrymandering committee that is funded by $10 million donations from large banks such as Citi Bank. The Republican’s have used gerrymandering and the electoral college as a well developed art-form to ensure that the party that represents the minority of the electorate can still dominate our politics. Big money helps in that effort. It is easier to win elections with disinformation, politics of fear without fact and voter suppression than it is to actually provide better ideas and to legislate for the benefit of the people and the country. … … … I really like this legislation and can pretty much guarantee that the Republican Senate will filibuster it to death if they are able. If it can get passed in tact, most of the Republican Dinosaurs will eventually leave politics because it will no longer be personally profitable to be a Congressperson without all of the other extracurricular perks. … … … This bill is good for our governable because our legislature would not have to dedicate time to their fund raising, palm-greasing, ass-kissing activities and should result in a governance by principled people who are more interested in governing than just winning elections. Corporate interests will get back to a purer form of capitalism instead of the current pay-to-play cronie capitalism. … … … I am all in for this legislation. It protects our country and our future.
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Joan's Opinion
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03/03/2021
Pass this now! Republicans across this nation are attacking voter rights as we speak. Shameless voter suppression is the way republicans win and states are trying to get these suppressive rules in place in time for next year’s elections. Stop the trumplican suppression now, please.
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larubia's Opinion
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03/03/2021
Rep. John Sarbanes!! 👏👏👏 Everything I have been asking for...for years...is in this legislation & more! Thank you!!!! YES!!!!
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Argument opposed

Some of this bill’s provisions overreach beyond the limits of what Congress is constitutionally allowed to do, as it undermines Americans' First Amendment rights to political speech and would have a chilling effect on public discourse. Additionally, Congress has more urgent issues, such as economic recovery and equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution, to focus on during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although protecting elections is important, the midterm elections aren’t until 2022; so Congress should set this legislation aside for now to focus on helping the American people get through the current public health and economic crisis.

ncfalcon's Opinion
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03/03/2021
This is nothing more than the Democrats attempt to enable future election fraud and future Democrat victories. Ballot harvesting provides no protection of the ballots or from fraud. Ballot drop boxes provide no protection of the ballots or from fraud. Motor voter laws automatically register people who are ineligible to vote and create more fraud. This bill is being masked as ensuring the ability of people to vote. It only makes it easier to commit fraud. What we need is a national voter ID. If countries like Mexico can accomplish this, why can’t the US? We also need to create a national voter role where states, cities and towns are required to update voter rolls whenever someone moves and registers in a new place. The register should also be updated prior to a death certificate being issued. Out of state college students should not be allowed to vote in local and state elections where they are attending college. The proper method for them to vote is by absentee ballot from their home state. If they are paying out of state tuition then they are not residents of the state where they are attending school. When I go vote, I go to my polling place, show my ID, fill out a paper ballot and place my ballot in a ballot box under the watch of poll workers and usually a police officer. This is how all voting should be done unless someone has a valid need for an absentee ballot. Universal mail out ballots create opportunities for fraud. I know of places that received ballots for people who didn’t even live there and had moved away several years before. There were places where people registered and received ballots at UPS mail box locations. This is wrong and people should register to vote with actual addresses. Any attempt to make Washington DC a state should be stopped. DC was never intended to be an independent state. It was founded as a neutral non-partisan territory to house the nations capital. The founders never intended for DC to be a state. If the legislators want the people of DC to more representation , then give the territory back to Virginia and Maryland.
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Stephen's Opinion
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03/04/2021
I am all for allowing every eligible vote cast their ballot. I do not understand why requiring a voter ID is that big of a deal. I am asked for my ID when I open a checking account and get on a plane and one of our most important responsibilities is to vote and everything should be done to ensure 100 percent integrity in our elections. This bill does not do that.
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Donald's Opinion
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03/04/2021
Again, the House is going in the wrong direction regarding voting. Presenting a valid ID is paramount for ANY form of voting. Without that requirement, voting fraud will continue to plague US voting!
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What is House Bill H.R. 1?

This bill — the For the People Act — would seek to reduce money’s influence in politics, restore ethics and integrity to government, and strengthen voting laws. The bill is divided into three divisions focused on Election Access, Campaign Finance, and Ethics. Each section is described in detail below.

DIVISION A — VOTING

Title I — Election Access

Voter Registration Modernization

  • Each state would be required to make online voter registration, correction, cancellation, and designation of party affiliation available online.
  • States would be prohibited from requiring applicants to provide more than the last four digits of a Social Security number to register to vote.
  • State election officials would be required to automatically register any eligible unregistered citizens to vote, while protecting ineligible voters who were mistakenly registered from prosecution; and state agencies and federal offices within states would be considered as contributing agencies for the purposes of registration.
  • States would be required to permit same-day registration for federal elections, including during early voting.
  • States’ authority to remove registrants from official voter rolls in federal elections on the basis of interstate voter registration crosschecks would be limited.
  • Annual state reports on voter registration statistics would be required to be provided to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC).
  • Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds would be available for use in voter registration modernization reforms.
  • It would be unlawful to hinder, interfere with, or prevent an individual’s registration to vote; and the EAC would be instructed to develop best practices for states to deter and prevent voter registration interference.

Access to Voting for Individuals with Disabilities

States would be required to promote access to voter registration and voting for persons with disabilities. Grant funding would be made available for persons with disabilities, and a pilot program allowing them to vote from home would begin.

Prohibiting Voter Caging

Returned non-forwardable mail couldn’t be used as the basis for removing registered voters from the rolls. Individuals who aren’t election officials wouldn’t be allowed to challenge voters’ eligibility without an oath of good faith factual basis.

Prohibiting Deceptive Practices and Preventing Voter Intimidation

Providing false information about elections to hinder or discourage voting would be prohibited, and penalties for voter intimidation would be increased. The bill would also create sentencing guidelines for individuals found guilty of the deceptive practices previously described.

Democracy Restoration

Released felons’ right to vote would be restored by declaring that citizens’ rights to vote in federal elections cannot be denied due a criminal conviction, unless they’re serving a felony sentence in a correctional facility. States and the federal government would be required to notify individuals convicted of state or federal felonies, respectively, of their re-enfranchisement.

Promoting Accuracy, Integrity, and Security Through Voter-Verified Permanent Paper Ballot

States would be required to use individual, durable, voter-verified paper ballots, and to count ballots by hand or using an optical character recognition device. Voters must be given opportunities to correct ballots in case of mistakes. Finally, ballots may not be stored in a manner that makes it possible to associate a voter to their ballot.

Provisional Ballots

Provisional ballots from eligible voters at incorrect polling places would be required to be counted.

Early Voting

There must be at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections. Early voting locations would have to be located near public transportation and be open for at least 10 hours a day.

Voting by Mail

States would be banned from imposing restrictions on individuals’ abilities to vote by mail. They would be required to carry out programs to track and confirm the receipt of absentee ballots and to make that information available to voters so they can track their ballots. Additionally, postage would be required on return envelopes for voting materials, including voter registration forms, applications for absentee ballots, and blank absentee ballots transmitted by mail.

Absent Uniformed Services Voters and Overseas Voters

States would be required to send absentee ballots at least 45 days before their election. States that fail to do so would incur a civil penalty. Blank absentee ballots would be required to be transmitted to certain qualified individuals in the same way that they are sent to Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) voters; however, these marked ballots would not be required to be returnable electronically.

Poll Worker Recruitment and Training

The EAC would be charged with developing model training programs and awarding grants for training.

Enhancement of Enforcement

Individuals would be given private rights of action and ability to file administrative complaints.

Federal Election Integrity

State chief election officials would be banned from participating in federal campaigns, and they’d be banned from using official authorities to affect elections’ results.

Promoting Voter Access Through Election Administration Improvements

The bill would also make various administration improvements to make it easier to vote, including: 

  • Treating universities as voter registration agencies;
  • Requiring seven days’ notice for polling site changes; 
  • Requiring the U.S. Postal Service to carry absentee ballots for free; 
  • Allowing states to use HAVA funds to reimburse the USPS for revenue it’d have earned from absentee ballots; 
  • Requiring the EAC to reimburse states for establishing absentee ballot tracking programs; creating a voter information hotline; 
  • Allowing voters to submit sworn written statements in lieu of providing photo  identification for voting;
  • Providing accommodations for voters residing in Indian lands;
  • Ensuring equitable and efficient operation of polling places;
  • Requiring states to provide secured drop boxes for voted absentee ballots in elections for federal office;
  • Prohibiting states from restricting curbside voting;
  • Imposing requirements for federal election contingency plans in response to natural disasters and emergencies;
  • Requiring the Attorney General to develop a state-based response system and hotline providing information on voting; and
  • Prohibiting states from requiring voters to submit sworn statements to cast provisional ballots.

This bill would also reauthorize the EAC beginning in FY2021, eliminate the existing funding cap for the agency,and require states to work with it to carry out post-election surveys after any regularly scheduled general election for federal office beginning in November 2022. The EAC would be directed to assess the security, cybersecurity, and effectiveness of its information technology systems and to review procedures for investigating and resolving allegations and violations.

The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 would both the amended to include the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.


Title II — Election Integrity

Reaffirming Congress’ Commitment to Restoring the Voting Rights Act

This bill would affirm Congress’s finding that that Shelby County decision ushered in a new era of voter suppression and declare that Congress should build a record of voter suppression since Shelby. It would also declare that Congress should restore the VRA’s protections by updating the formula for determining which jurisdictions are subject to federal preclearance.

Findings Relating to Native American Voting Rights

This bill would declare Congress’s intent to protect and promote Native Americans’ exercise of their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote; this would include voter registration and equal access to all voting mechanisms.

Findings Relating to District of Columbia Statehood

This bill would declare Congress’s perspective that District of Columbia residents deserve full Congressional voting rights and self-government which only statehood can provide.

Territorial Voting Rights

This bill would declare Congress’s view that the right to vote is one of the most powerful instructions for ensuring that residents of U.S. territories can have their voices heard. It would also establish a Congressional Task Force on Voting Rights of United States Citizen Residents of Territories of the United States. 

Redistricting Reform

States would be required to adopt independent redistricting commissions for drawing Congressional districts.

Saving Voters from Voter Purging

The bill would respond to the Husted decision by clarifying that failure to vote isn't grounds for removing registered voters from the rolls.

No Effect on Authority of States to Provide Greater Opportunities for Voting

This bill sets a floor — not a ceiling — for states’ actions on voting rights, so states could take further actions to protect voting rights beyond this bill’s provisions.


Title III — Election Security

Financial Support for Election Infrastructure

This bill would establish standards for election vendors based on cybersecurity and company ownership. It’d also allow the EAC to issue grants to states for improving and maintaining election systems; establishing paper ballot systems; conducting risk-limiting audits after elections; and encouraging election infrastructure innovation through a competitive grant program.

It would also require states to undertake measures to prevent and deter cybersecurity incidents involving computerized voter registration databases, and would authorize grants to states to conduct risk-limiting audits of election results.

Security Measures

The Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) would be required to maintain election infrastructure’s critical designation, to provide timely threat information to chief state election officials, and to assess threats to election systems at least 180 days before a general federal election.

Enhancing Protection for United States Democratic Institutions

The president would be required to produce a national strategy, with an implementation plan issued within 90 days, for protecting U.S. democratic institutions and to create a National Commission to Protect United States Democratic Institutions to counter threats.

Promoting Cybersecurity Through Improvements in Election Administration

Voting systems would be tested nine months before each regularly scheduled general election for federal office. Electronic poll books would be defined as part of voting systems, and pre-election reports on voting system usage would be required.

Preventing Election Hacking

Would establish an Election Security Bug Bounty Program to encourage independent assessments of election systems by technical experts.

Election Security Grants Advisory Committee

An election security grants advisory committee would be established.

Use of Voting Machines Manufactured in the United States

States would be required to seek to use American-made voting machines.


DIVISION B — CAMPAIGN FINANCE

Title IV — Campaign Finance Transparency

Establishing Duty to Report Foreign Election Interference

This section would express Congress’s intent to curb the use of shell companies and other illicit activities allowing foreign money to enter and undermine U.S. democracy. The Federal Election Campaign Act would be amended to create a reporting requirement for disclosing reportable foreign contacts within a week of each contact. A federal campaign foreign contact reporting compliance system would be established for each political committee to notify the treasurer or other designated official of the committee about reportable foreign contacts within three days after the contact.

DISCLOSE Act

Contributions and expenditures from foreign nationals and corporations with significant foreign ownership or control would be banned, and the application of the foreign money ban regarding separate segregated funds would be clarified. Super PACs, 501(c)4 groups, and other organizations spending money in elections and on judicial nominations would be required to disclosure donors who contribute more than $10,000; transfers between organizations to clock source contributors would be banned. An exception is allowed if reporting donor information would subject the donor to serious threats, harassment or reprisals.

Honest Ads

Large digital platforms would be required to maintain a public database of political ad purchase requests over $500. Digital platforms would be directed to implement measures to prevent foreign nationals from directly or indirectly purchasing political ads. Broadcasters, providers of cable or satellite television, and online platforms would be required to make reasonable efforts to ensure that political advertising is not purchased by foreign nationals, either directly or indirectly.

Stand by Every Ad

“Stand by your ad” disclosure requirements would be expanded to include leaders of corporations, unions, and other organizations purchasing political ads.

Secret Money Transparency

Would repeal the existing prohibition on the IRS promulgating rules to bring clarity to the rules governing 501(c) political activity.

Shareholder Right-to-Know

Would repeal the existing prohibition on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finalizing rules to give shareholders the opportunity to know about publicly traded companies’ political spending.

Disclosure of Political Spending by Government Contractors

Would repeal the prohibition on the executive branch promulgating rules to require government contractors to disclose all their political spending.

Disclosure Requirements for Presidential Inaugural Committee

Presidential Inauguration Committees would be required to disclose their expenditures. Aggregate contributions would be limited, and funds couldn’t be used for non-inauguration purposes.


Title V — Campaign Finance Empowerment

Findings Related to Citizens United Decision

Expresses that Congress finds that the Citizens United decision is detrimental to America’s democracy and that the Constitution should be amended to clarify Congress’ and the states’ authority to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures.

Congressional Elections

Would create small dollar incentives to expand the universe of low-dollar contributors and establish an optional, publicly financed 6-1 matching system on small-dollar donations up to $200 for House candidates who raise at least $50,000 in qualified small dollar contributions from at least 1,000 individuals during the Small Dollar Democracy qualifying period and who demonstrate broad-based support and reject high-dollar contributions. This system would be fully financed through a surcharge on settlements paid by corporate law breakers and tax cheats; no taxpayer funds would be used to finance the matching system.

A state-based pilot demonstration of $25 My Voice vouchers (per election cycle) would be established for political giving to House candidates.

Candidates who qualify for enhanced support would receive an additional 3-to-1 match on qualified small dollar contributions raised during an enhanced support qualifying period, up to $500,000 in enhanced matching funds.

The Freedom From Influence Fund would be established to provide matching funds to qualified candidates. Its funds would be derived from an assessment paid on federal finds, penalties, and settlements for certain tax crimes and corporate malfeasance.

Presidential Elections

Would establish a publicly financed 6-1 matching system on the first $200 of a contribution to the presidential campaign of a participating candidate. This system would be fully financed through a surcharge on settlements paid by corporate law breakers and tax cheats; no taxpayer funds would be used to finance the matching system. A “matchable contribution” would be an individual contribution in an aggregate amount of no more than $1,000.

Personal Use Services as Authorized Campaign Expenditures

Authorized campaign expenditures would be expanded to include child care, elder service care, rent or mortgage payments, professional development and media training, and health insurance payments in order to make it easier for candidates of modest means to run for and win office. For candidates meeting certain employment eligibility requirements, a “right of return” to employment would be established to make it easier for candidates of modest means to run for and win office.

Empowering Small Dollar Donations

Incentivizes small dollar fundraising by removing restrictions on party spending from accounts funded by small dollars contributions.


Title VI — Campaign Finance Oversight

Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) would be restructured with five commissioners in order to break gridlock, and its civil penalty authority would be made permanent.

Stopping Super PAC-Candidate Coordination

“Prohibited coordination” between campaigns and super PACs would be defined. A “coordinated spender” category would be created to ensure single-candidate PACs don’t operate as arms of campaigns.

Disposal of Contributions or Donations

Establishes a deadline by which candidates not running again must disburse all campaign funds.

Recommendations to Ensuring Filing of Reports Before Date of Election

Requires the FEC to develop recommendations for requiring all political committees to submit FEC reports before an election.


DIVISION C — ETHICS

Title VII — Ethics Standards

Supreme Court Ethics

Would require the development of a code of ethics for Supreme Court justices.

Foreign Agents Registration

Would increase resources for the FARA office, create a FARA investigation and enforcement unit in the Dept. of Justice (DOJ), and give the FARA office the authority to impose civil penalties. It’d also require foreign agents to disclose transactions involving things of financial value conferred on officeholders.

Lobbying Disclosure Reform

Counseling in support of lobbying contacts would be considered lobbying under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, and it would be made something that triggers registration.

Recusal of Presidential Appointees

Would require all presidential appointees to recuse themselves from any matter involving the president, the president’s spouse, or an entity in which the president or their spouse has a substantial interest.

Clearinghouse on Lobbying Information

A single clearinghouse for Lobbying Disclosure Act and Foreign Agents Registration Act registration forms would be established.


Title VIII — Ethics Reforms for the President, Vice President and Federal Officers and Employees

Executive Branch Conflict of Interest

This part of the bill would prohibit: 1) incentive payments from corporations to individuals entering government service; 2) federal procurement officers from accepting compensation from a contractor to which the officer awarded a contract for two years after leaving government service; and 3) senior federal officials from inappropriately using their position after leaving government service by restricting them from attempting to influence employees in their former agency for two years after the end of their official service.

Presidential Conflicts of Interest

This would state the Sense of Congress that the president and vice president should conduct themselves as if they were bound by the federal conflict of interest law. It’d require the president and vice president to file new financial disclosure reports within 30 days of taking office and divest financial interests that pose a conflict of interest or disclosure information about their business interests within the same timeline.

White House Ethics Transparency

Executive branch ethics waivers would be disclosed to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) and the public.

Executive Branch Ethics Enforcement

Would reauthorize the OGE and enhance its enforcement mechanisms.

Conflicts from Political Fundraising

Would require individuals nominated or appointed to Senate-confirmed positions and certain other senior government officials to disclose contributions by, solicited by, or made on behalf of an individual. It’d also require disclosure of certain types of gifts to these individuals or their families. The OGE would issue rules or address conflicts of interest identified in disclosures.

Transition Team Ethics

Presidents-elect would be required to develop ethics plans that apply to members of the transition and to affirm that their transition team members are free from financial conflicts of interest.

Ethics Pledge for Senior Executive Branch Employees

Would codify the Obama-era Executive Branch ethics pledge.

Travel on Private Aircraft by Senior Political Appointees

Senior political appointees would be prohibited from using government funds for private aircraft.


Title IX — Congressional Ethics Reform

Requiring Members of Congress to Reimburse Treasury for Amounts Paid as Settlements and Awards Under Congressional Accountability Act

Members of Congress would be prohibited from using taxpayer funds to settle employment discrimination cases against them.

Conflicts of Interest

Members of Congress would be prohibited from serving on for-profit entities’ boards. Rules prohibiting Members and their staff from using their positions to further their own or their immediate family members’ financial interests would be codified.

Campaign FInance and Lobbying Disclosure

FEC reports and Lobbying Disclosure Act reports would be required to be linked online.

Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports

All Congressionally mandated reports from federal agencies would be required to be published online in a searchable and downloadable database.

Reports on Outside Compensation Earned by Congressional Employees

A Senate rule requiring disclosure of providers of outside compensation to Congressional staff would be codified and applied to House staff.


Title X — Presidential Tax Transparency

Presidential Conflicts of Interest

All sitting presidents and vice presidents, as well as candidates for president and vice president, would be required to release their tax returns going back 10 years. These tax returns would be publicly released by the FEC.

Impact

Voters; elections; felons; political donors; small-dollar donors; campaigns; campaign finance; FEC; SEC; Treasury; Congressional staff; Congress; vice president; and the president.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1

$260.00 Billion
In the 116th Congress, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that enacting this bill would cost nearly $2.6 billion over the five-year period from 2019 to 2024.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) reintroduced this bill from the 116th Congress to ensure elections’ integrity and protect the right to vote. In a joint statement after reintroducing this bill, Rep. Sarbanes and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said:

“Our democracy is in a state of deep disrepair. During the 2020 election, Americans had to overcome rampant voter suppression, gerrymandering and a torrent of special interest dark money just to exercise their right to vote. Across the country, people of all political persuasions – including Democrats, Independents and Republicans – are profoundly frustrated with the chaos, corruption and inaction that plague much of our politics. That’s why House Democrats are doubling down on our longstanding commitment to advance transformational anti-corruption and clean election reforms by again passing H.R. 1, the For the People Act. H.R. 1 will protect the right to vote, ensure the integrity of our elections, hold elected officials accountable and end the era of big, dark, special-interest money in our politics. Our historic reform effort will clean up decades of dysfunction in Washington, return power to the people and build a more just, equitable and prosperous country for all Americans.”

In the previous session of Congress, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) introduced this bill to uphold House Democrats’ campaign promises to voters during the 2018 midterm elections. In comments upon this bill’s introduction, Rep. Sarbanes said:

“We (Democrats) carried a message of reform, of fighting corruption, of cleaning up Washington. We made a promise to the American people. The new members who’ve come made that promise and made it clear they wanted this to be the first order of business. [This bill] is delivering on that promise.”

Political money overhaul group Democracy 21 supports this legislation. Its president, Fred Wertheimer, says:

“We have a broken political system, a corrupting campaign finance system and a democracy that has been greatly damaged. This legislation makes historic democracy reforms, and the choice is going to come down to: Are we going to repair our democracy or are we going to let an antiquated filibuster rule stand in the way of fixing our political system and our democracy?”

The Biden administration has declared that this legislation’s passage is a major priority. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Rep. Sarbanes noted that he had been having conversations about this bill with the Biden-Harris transition team “for a number of months”:

“[T]hey recognize that, coming off of this election and also recent events, that Americans need to have their faith in the kind of basic tenets of our democracy restored after all that we’ve been going through. We know that President Biden wants to try to bring the country together and heal some of these divisions, and one way to do that is to revisit and go back to basic principles of our democracy — the right to vote, the notion that public officials will act in public interest, not special interest, the idea that government should be dependent, as James Madison said, on the people alone, not overly dependent on big money and special interests. All of this goes back to first principles in terms of how our democracy functions and how our republic was founded. If people don’t have confidence that their vote is what makes the difference about policy in this country and in our democracy, then that cynicism is corrosive to our democracy. This bill is restorative. We’re not going to tear this system down and destroy it; we’re going to cleanse it and rebuild it. I think the Biden team understands that in this moment."

Government watchdog group Common Cause supports this bill. During the 116th Congress, itsIts president, Karen Hobert Flynn, urged the House to pass this bill quickly, and then forward it to the Senate to shine a spotlight on the Senate’s response, or lack thereof:

“We urge the House to pass the bill expeditiously and to forward the bill to the Senate in order to shine a spotlight on the Senate’s response – or silence in the face of public demand. Under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that response has been to declare any proposed democracy reform DOA. That stance must change, or the Senate may find itself with a number of new faces in 2021.”

Last Congress, this bill was unable to overcome stiff opposition. Then-Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called this bill a "power grab" and said that the "sprawling 622-page doorstop is never going to become law." In the previous session of Congress, Rep. Sarbanes embraced Sen. McConnell’s opposition to this bill, saying as he says, “You could stamp on this thing ‘McConnell-rejected,’ and it would immediately give it more credibility… This was built for the public.

The GOP’s opposition to this bill has continued in the current session of Congress. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) criticized Democrats’ attempt to “recycle failed legislation” with their renewed push to pass this bill, which he characterized as a “federal takeover.” He also accused Democrats of wanting to “use the temporary power the voters have granted them to try to ensure they’ll never have to relinquish it.” He added:

“They want to mandate no-excuse mail-in balloting as a permanent norm, post-pandemic. And — I promise I am not making this up — their bill proposes to directly fund political campaigns with federal tax dollars. They want to raise money through new financial penalties which the government would then use to fund campaigns and consultants.”

In late February 2021, former Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli announced the launch of the Election Transparency Initiative to “act quickly to defeat the efforts of Democrats in Washington to federalize election laws through H.R.1, while simultaneously going on offense at the state level to rally the grass roots around meaningful reforms." Cuccinelli’s group intends to focus on three states (Arizona, Montana, and West Virginia) where moderate senators are most likely to break from the Democratic majority on big issues.

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who opposes this legislation, says:

“If this bill were to become law, it would be the largest expansion of the federal government’s role in elections that we have ever seen. The harm to the states’ electoral process outweighs the minor burdens imposed on the rights to vote.”

The Institute for Free Speech, an organization opposing regulations on political spending, opposes this legislation. Its president, David Keating, says this bill’s donor disclosure requirement could have a chilling effort on donations. Observing that early backers of the Civil Rights or LBGTQ movements often relied on their anonymity, he said:

“We have a right as citizens to join groups and not report who we are to the government. I think a number of liberal groups, when they sit down and look at this closely, they're going to be really concerned about the scope of this legislation.”

In the 116th Congress, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote to the House Rules Committee to say that while it supports many individual provisions of this bill, it opposed others that "unconstitutionally impinge on the free speech rights of American citizens and public interest organizations." Specifically, it opposes the following provisions for the reasons listed:

  • The DISCLOSE Act "would chill the speech of issue advocacy groups and non-profits such as ACLU, Planned Parenthood, or the NRA that is essential to our public discourse and protected by the First Amendment."
  • The Stand By Every Ad Act "unduly burdens constitutionally protected associational rights by requiring widely distributed disclosure of the names of donors to organizations that are not engaged in express advocacy of the election or defeat of the candidate."
  • The Honest Ads Acts would expand the "definition of electioneering communications for online ads beyond the bounds permitted by the Supreme Court."
  • The Stop Super PAC-Candidate Coordination Act's language defining coordination "appears vague and could be interpreted broadly to encompass communications with the candidate about the public policy issues of the day without sufficient nexus to the potential corrupting influence of very large expenditures."
  • The Conflicts from Political Fundraising Act's disclosure requirements "do not appear to be narrowly tailored to serve the government's legitimate anti-corruption goals... All such disclosures will tell the public is that the covered person has been interested in the laws administered by the agency the person will serve, which would seem, if anything, to support that person's qualifications to hold the position, not reveal an insidious conflict of interest."
  • The Ethics in Public Service Act "will deny or restrict the government's ability to hire the people of its choice to fill key positions specifically because of their speech and will do the same for private entities' ability to hire the advocate of their choice."

On some issues, such as redistricting, NPR’s Peter Overby reports that some of this bill’s provisions “push the envelope” and reach into state law. During this bill’s consideration in the 116th Congress, he said:

“To settle the controversy over redistricting, the bill would simply take away the power of state legislatures to draw congressional districts and have independent commissions do it instead. That way, presumably, the local politicians could no longer gerrymander the districts to help their party and cripple the opposition.”

All 222 Democratic Members of the House have co-sponsored this bill in the current session. No Republicans have signed on to cosponsor this legislation. Rep. Sarbanes characterizes Democrats’ partywide support of this bill as indicative of the party’s “steadfast commitment to advanc[ing] transformational anti-corruption and clean election reforms.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) plans to introduce a Senate version of this bill. In the 116th Congress, this legislation passed the House by a 234-193 party-line vote but failed to advance in the then-Republican-controlled Senate. It had 236 Democratic House cosponsors. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), had 46 Senate cosponsors, including 44 Democrats and two Independents, and didn’t receive a committee vote.

Over 150 groups, including the Brennan Center for Justice, Democracy Policy Center, and March for Our Lives, support this legislation in the 117th Congress. In the 116th Congress, this bill had the support of the House Democratic caucus, as well as Public Citizen, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the Alliance for Justice, the Center for American Progress (CAP), Common Cause, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, U.S. PIRG, and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).


Of NoteThis bill’s title, H.R. 1, is a symbolic title meant to emphasize its importance, even if it won’t be the first piece of legislation to get a House vote in the new Congress. Although this bill stands little chance of getting anywhere beyond the House, Rolling Stone’s Andy Kroll points out that it’s important in several other ways:

“[This bill] announces that the health of our democracy is first and foremost on the minds of Speaker Pelosi and her new majority. And it puts down, in one place, a laundry list of ideas and possible reforms that can be individually enacted or adopted at the state level, giving Democrats a starting point for tackling issues — gerrymandering, voting rights and more — that voters increasingly see as vital to the future of this country… [F]aced with the most ethically challenged president since Richard Nixon, Pelosi and the Democrats have signaled that rolling back decades of anti-democratic policies and resuscitating our ailing electoral system is at the top of their to-do list.”

This legislation is advancing against a backdrop of Republican-controlled states seizing on former Republican President Donald Trump’s false claims about a stolen 2020 presidential election to push legislation that would tighten election security. Democrats — whose slim majorities in both chambers of Congress will be at stake in the 2022 midterms — argue that voters of color, who are a key constituency for the party, would be disproportionately affected by these proposed reforms.

As of January 2021, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that since the 2020 presidential election, 28 states have introduced 106 bills aimed at restricting voting. This represents a sharp increase over 2020, when 15 states introduced 35 similar bills restricting voting.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang (with contributions from Eric Revell)

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Moussa81)

AKA

For the People Act of 2021

Official Title

To expand Americans' access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house Passed March 4th, 2021
    Roll Call Vote 220 Yea / 210 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Administration
      Research and Technology
      The Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties
      Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet
    IntroducedJanuary 4th, 2021

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    The biggest factor damaging our country is the big money interests that dominate our political processes. Citizens United must be done away with because this has become the primary vehicle that encourages political corruption. The PAC system allows commercial interests to buy political favor because there is a greater return on their big money investments by buying political favor than there is for capitalistic investments to provide better products and services than competitors. The PACs are supposed to be completely separate from the politicians that they support, and this has been widely ignored. The Trump has a PAC that supports him. The trump’s campaign PAC was managed by his campaign manager’s wife! The PAC system has been grossly abused as a direct funnel from big money to political parties - and no one seems to care! Republicans will rant that electing Democrats will result in socialism like that of Venezuela. OK, based on what specifically? Why specifically? It sure scares people but there are absolutely no facts that supports that conclusion. Just fear. … … … The big money allows political parties to regiment their membership to toe the party line instead of voting their conscience and losing their seat, their donors, their ‘soft-money’ gifts, insider trading information and all of the protections afforded congresspeople. It is why there is such interest in gerrymandering districts and suppressing opposition party voters. Big money corrupts and that corruption results in graft, emolument violations, self-serving actions and illicit quid pro quo relations such as the trumpublican party had with the trump. The trump let McConnell make the judicial nominations that McConnell wanted and rolled back most of the regulations that added to the costs of commercial interests despite the damage done to the populace in return for the trumpublican’s refusal to hold the trump’s increasing egregious abuses in check. … … … The RNC has a gerrymandering committee that is funded by $10 million donations from large banks such as Citi Bank. The Republican’s have used gerrymandering and the electoral college as a well developed art-form to ensure that the party that represents the minority of the electorate can still dominate our politics. Big money helps in that effort. It is easier to win elections with disinformation, politics of fear without fact and voter suppression than it is to actually provide better ideas and to legislate for the benefit of the people and the country. … … … I really like this legislation and can pretty much guarantee that the Republican Senate will filibuster it to death if they are able. If it can get passed in tact, most of the Republican Dinosaurs will eventually leave politics because it will no longer be personally profitable to be a Congressperson without all of the other extracurricular perks. … … … This bill is good for our governable because our legislature would not have to dedicate time to their fund raising, palm-greasing, ass-kissing activities and should result in a governance by principled people who are more interested in governing than just winning elections. Corporate interests will get back to a purer form of capitalism instead of the current pay-to-play cronie capitalism. … … … I am all in for this legislation. It protects our country and our future.
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    This is nothing more than the Democrats attempt to enable future election fraud and future Democrat victories. Ballot harvesting provides no protection of the ballots or from fraud. Ballot drop boxes provide no protection of the ballots or from fraud. Motor voter laws automatically register people who are ineligible to vote and create more fraud. This bill is being masked as ensuring the ability of people to vote. It only makes it easier to commit fraud. What we need is a national voter ID. If countries like Mexico can accomplish this, why can’t the US? We also need to create a national voter role where states, cities and towns are required to update voter rolls whenever someone moves and registers in a new place. The register should also be updated prior to a death certificate being issued. Out of state college students should not be allowed to vote in local and state elections where they are attending college. The proper method for them to vote is by absentee ballot from their home state. If they are paying out of state tuition then they are not residents of the state where they are attending school. When I go vote, I go to my polling place, show my ID, fill out a paper ballot and place my ballot in a ballot box under the watch of poll workers and usually a police officer. This is how all voting should be done unless someone has a valid need for an absentee ballot. Universal mail out ballots create opportunities for fraud. I know of places that received ballots for people who didn’t even live there and had moved away several years before. There were places where people registered and received ballots at UPS mail box locations. This is wrong and people should register to vote with actual addresses. Any attempt to make Washington DC a state should be stopped. DC was never intended to be an independent state. It was founded as a neutral non-partisan territory to house the nations capital. The founders never intended for DC to be a state. If the legislators want the people of DC to more representation , then give the territory back to Virginia and Maryland.
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    Pass this now! Republicans across this nation are attacking voter rights as we speak. Shameless voter suppression is the way republicans win and states are trying to get these suppressive rules in place in time for next year’s elections. Stop the trumplican suppression now, please.
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    Rep. John Sarbanes!! 👏👏👏 Everything I have been asking for...for years...is in this legislation & more! Thank you!!!! YES!!!!
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    Attention all idiots. Mass Voter fraud is not real and it is snot an actually occurring thing. Just reading the first 4 bill let points alone makes me support this bill, even though I do support it’s entirety. This bill seeks to drastically expand voting rights which is the most important thing in a democracy! The only reasons this bill is not supported by the GOP is because of the fake election and mass voter fraud allegations, and because they want as few people to vote as possibly. All of their ideas of policy are disliked by the majority of Americans so the only way they are able to win is by suppressing voter turnout. This is supported by data.
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    Needed to counter voter suppression & dark money .
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    Protecting our democracy should be issue #1 for both houses of Congress. Please sign this bill now and protect the right of all American citizens to vote freely and fairly, with no restrictions. There is no evidence of widespread fraud, and nobody who says there is should be in Congress. The Supreme Court has gutted parts of the Voting Rights Act and may erode it even further this year, and Republicans have admitted that they can only win by restricting voting rights of minorities. This is a very critical situation that could turn back 60 years of progress in turning out the vote. We must restore the right of all citizens to vote.
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    We need this badly.
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    I am all for allowing every eligible vote cast their ballot. I do not understand why requiring a voter ID is that big of a deal. I am asked for my ID when I open a checking account and get on a plane and one of our most important responsibilities is to vote and everything should be done to ensure 100 percent integrity in our elections. This bill does not do that.
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    Again, the House is going in the wrong direction regarding voting. Presenting a valid ID is paramount for ANY form of voting. Without that requirement, voting fraud will continue to plague US voting!
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    The naked voter suppression efforts by gop goons makes a mockery of this country and everything it ‘stands’ for. Ironic visuals - if you look @ the communist chinese - russian - north korean and now cpac party plenum they all depict red with dear leaders statue or portraits on prominent display! Remember CCCP / CPC sound same as CPAC Gop should rename as the TTGOP totalitarian trump gop? Bow to the leader! Bend the knee!
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    This bill will help democracy!!! We need this!!!
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    I agree big money controls our complete government system. Members of Congress bring Bills up like this many times and the all fail. Why? Because Congress and Presidential offices would loose campaign funds. So it will never pass. This is not new by a long shot. Money talks louder than voting constituents. Another reason minimum wage, internet, paid television, social security, union busting, medical costs, pharmaceuticals, air transportation, vehicles all stay expensive to the consumer. Money talks. It does not matter which party they all are tied to it.
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    This bill speaks to the core values of this nation. It is a must pass piece of legislation. Unfortunately, the values upon which is based flies in the face of the corporate and fascist focus of the Republicans,
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    The only election fraud that has ever been is by Republicans from disenfranchising blacks and brown people, trying to changing the election results, intimidation at the polls, steeling vote ballots, intimidate candidates, to limit access to voting, require three pieces of ID, making long lines in certain district and this is all done by Republican conservatives voters. Just like the attempt to over though the government Jan 6, 2020! Democratic try to get people to the polls and register, a little different!
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    Heck..... No Way..... Never In A Month Of Sunday's Pass The Bill This bill — the For the People Act — would seek to reduce money’s influence in politics, restore ethics and integrity to government, and strengthen voting laws. The bill is divided into three divisions focused on Election Access, Campaign Finance, and Ethics. Some of this bill’s provisions overreach beyond the limits of what Congress is constitutionally allowed to do, as it undermines Americans' First Amendment rights to political speech and would have a chilling effect on public discourse. Additionally, Congress has more urgent issues, such as economic recovery and equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution, to focus on during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although protecting elections is essential, the midterm elections aren’t until 2022, so Congress should set this legislation aside, for now, to focus on helping the American people get through the current public health and economic crisis. This bill is nothing more than a Pelosi House death wish for killing fair elections in the coming election. SneakyPete. 👎🏻👎🏻👎🏻👎🏻HR-1👎🏻👎🏻👎🏻👎🏻 3. 2. 21
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    Taking away states rights takes away what makes it nation beautiful. 50 unique united States! Let the states decide if they want to allow same day voter registration and let them clean their registries of the deceased! Send like common sense to me. Vote no on HR 1
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    To my representative: Dude please. Demonstrate to your constituents that Republicans are not fascist and do actually care about democracy. To my Senators: continue to work to expand voting rights in all ways.
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    FIRST STEP TO FIXING OUR GOVERNMENT TO WORK FOR THE PEOPLE
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    We need this bill to be passed!!! Republicans are doing everything in their power to suppress voters of color in key districts because they know that their chances of winning future elections are slim when the majority of Americans vote. This bill would not only protect individual voting rights, but it would also help fix the overall system by preventing Republicans and Democrats from gerrymandering and allowing everyday people to have their voices be heard.
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