H.R. 1, the For The People Act of 2021, has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and should pass in the Senate as well. It is the most comprehensive and fair reform to our voting laws in decades. There is something in this bill for everyone, but most importantly this bill helps everyone by encouraging voting rather than restricting voting for eligible citizens. It strengthens our democracy and when our democracy is strong, we are too. Here are a few of the components of the For The People Act of 2021.
• Encourages electronic registration, already in use in 40 states, and encourages automatic voter registration for federal elections.
• Permits same-day registration for voters, a practice effectively used in 21 states.
• Permits absentee voting without exception.
• Restricts ways voters can be purged from registrations. If you miss an election cycle you are not removed from voter registration rolls.
• Outlaws partisan gerrymandering by creating independent commissions to create redistricting rules.
• Requires all voting machines to be manufactured in the United States.
• Requires candidates to report contacts from foreign governments or agents.
• Allows felons who have served their sentences to vote without adding additional restrictions.
These parts of the legislation make it easier for citizens to vote, which is great, but it gets even better! We aren’t fools and we know money talks, so other provisions in H.R. 1 try to level the playing field between the ultra-rich and the rest of us by making political financing more transparent than it is now. We deserve to see who is financing campaigns and advertisements and donors should not be able to hide behind PAC firewalls.
• Requires that donors, including those who donate more than $10,000 to Political Action Committees (PAC’s) be identified in reporting documents. Also requires corporations that pay for political advertisements to be identified as the sponsors.
• Requires that small political donations are matched at a 1:6 ratio with public funds. This provision keeps campaign finance from being the exclusive playground of the rich.
• Requires federal contractors to disclose all political spending as a lobbying expense.
This is America. The more Americans who vote, the better all Americans will be represented. The For The People Act of 2021 makes voting as seamless as possible for eligible voters across the country. Voting was a huge deal for my family. My mom was a poll judge for as long as I can remember, and my dad ran for school board. It was exciting for the kids when he won. I proudly cast my first presidential vote before I was 21.
But I understand families that have a different relationship with voting. Black families were precluded from voting for decades because of Jim Crow laws, defended in a twenty-four hour and eighteen minute filibuster by Strom Thurmond to kill the Civil Rights Bill of 1957. The bill, which passed, limited voting restrictions that were clearly designed to preclude Black citizens from voting. It didn’t change much for Black voters but gave oxygen to the Civil Rights Movement which continues to this day. States, including Wyoming, are rushing to find ways to restrict voting and Black citizens know exactly what that feels like. It makes sense that an election is met with indifference among families who have had those experiences.
But our democracy is better when it is bigger, when it includes every citizen eligible to cast a ballot. Until we fully understand that we will continue to live in parochial cells that think America prospers only when we prosper. America prospers when we all prosper.
Check out the For The People Act of 2021 and see if you don’t agree with most of the provisions. Independently defined legislative districts? That’s a win. Voting machines manufactured in America? That’s a win for voting and for manufacturing. Transparency in who is financially supporting a candidate? Oh, yeah. I’m pretty sure if you look at it closely, you’ll like what you see.
You can read H.R. 1 at https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1/text. Don’t take my word for it and don’t read someone else’s interpretation of the bill. Read it for yourself. You’ll like some of it and you may not like some of it, but you can decide if, on balance, it is a good bill. I think it is and, though I know neither of them will, I have encouraged senators Barrasso and Lummis to support this legislation in the Senate.