Updated: Jan 25, 2021
Healthcare, jobs, education, climate change...we all care deeply about these things. But to get the policy changes we want, first we need a fair process. The For The People Act (H.R. 1) puts power in the hands of the people by limiting the influence of wealthy donors, increasing transparency, ensuring access to the ballot box, and creating a more fair process for congressional redistricting.
Background: The For The People Act (H.R. 1) was the first bill to be introduced two years ago in the 116th Congress. It passed overwhelmingly in the House, but was never introduced in the Republican-majority Senate. With the 117th Congress now sworn in, it was reintroduced in the House a few weeks ago and we are waiting to see what the Senate will do. Senator Chuck Schumer, now the Senate Majority Leader, has indicated the For The People Act will be one of the Senate’s first priorities. With a Democratic majority in the Senate, there’s a chance of passing this historic voting rights bill, but gaining bipartisan support is critical. This is legislation that is good for all Americans.
Why is the For The People Act so important? It’s massive landmark legislation covering voting rights, government ethics, and campaign finance reform. Here are some of the highlights:
It includes a number of provisions to modernize voter registration, make voting more accessible, and prevent things like deceptive practices, voter intimidation, and improper voter purging.
It bans partisan gerrymandering and requires states establish independent commissions to draw congressional district lines.
It funds election security upgrades and prevents foreign interference.
It requires the Supreme Court to establish rules of ethics (That’s right, we currently don’t really have an official code of ethics for Supreme Court justices).
It makes political donations transparent, so voters know the source of candidates’ campaign funds (including if it is coming from foreign sources).
It requires presidential and vice-presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
It includes new ethics requirements for members of Congress.
The For The People Act will ensure equal access to the ballot box, make our elections more fair and secure, and crack down on political corruption. If your goal is to move the United States towards a stronger, healthier democracy that actually works for the people, the For The People Act is legislation to get behind. If you’re interested in digging into the details, the Brennan Center for Justice published a very thorough annotated guide in 2019 that is still relevant.
Our Challenge: The Senate is split—50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with Vice-President Harris as the tie-breaker. The bill needs 60 votes to pass (unless they get rid of the filibuster, but that’s a separate conversation). This means we must get bipartisan support for this bill. We can help in this effort by reinforcing this simple fact: this bill is good for all of us.
One of the things we’ve learned in the last four years is that we need a “Democracy upgrade” to level the playing field and prevent the rise of another autocratic ruler. The For The People Act strengthens our democracy by ensuring all Americans have a voice in the decisions affecting their lives, and helps us hold power accountable.
Our job: We need to mobilize the grassroots community to get behind it the same way we have organized in support of the Affordable Healthcare Act. We need to contact our Senators regularly, start letter writing campaigns, build momentum in our communities, and work with national and local organizations to put power in the hands of the people by passing the For The People Act.