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Demo­cracy reform could take center stage in the new Congress, accord­ing to a top Demo­crat. 

The first legis­lat­ive vote in the House in Janu­ary will be on a bill to fix the system by estab­lish­ing nation­wide auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion, revital­iz­ing the Voting Rights Act, and shift­ing redis­trict­ing from state legis­latures to inde­pend­ent commis­sions, among other meas­ures, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) told NPR.

“It’s three very basic things that I think the public wants to see,” said Sarbanes, who leads campaign finance and govern­ment ethics efforts for the House Demo­cratic Caucus. This H.R. 1, he added, would “demon­strate that we hear that message loud and clear.” 

Other H.R. 1 provi­sions aim to reduce the influ­ence of big money in polit­ics through stronger disclos­ure rules, an expan­sion of small-donor public finan­cing, and a push for a consti­tu­tional amend­ment to over­turn Citizens United.

Amer­ic­ans want demo­cracy reform

Amer­ic­ans didn’t just vote for a party change in Congress last week. They also approved, in resound­ing fash­ion, a record number of demo­cracy-related meas­ures on issues like ethics, redis­trict­ing, voting, and money in polit­ics. Four states – Color­ado, Michigan, Missouri, and Utah – passed citizen-led ballot initi­at­ives to reform redis­trict­ing. Michigan also voted in favor of enact­ing auto­matic and same-day voter regis­tra­tion. Flor­ida voted to re-enfran­chise around 1.4 million people with past convic­tions. And across the coun­try, there was wide­spread support for meas­ures on voting access and on campaign ethics and finance. Mean­while, voter suppres­sion, long lines, machine fail­ures, regis­tra­tion issues, and other prob­lems at the polls made clear there’s an urgent need to make voting easier.

By adopt­ing demo­cracy reform as its top prior­ity, the House would help keep the issue at the center of the public conver­sa­tion and build momentum ahead of the 2020 elec­tion. “The path back to having the public trust govern­ment and polit­ics is a long one, but we have to start some­place,” said Sarbanes.

(Image: Shut­ter­stock.com)