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Analysis

House Democrats to Unveil Comprehensive Democracy Reform Bill

Voting rights, gerrymandering, and campaign finance reform will top Congress’s 2019 agenda. It’s an important step toward fixing our broken system.

  • Brennan Center for Justice
November 30, 2018

The incom­ing House lead­er­ship unveiled on Friday the outline for a sweep­ing bill that will include reforms for voting rights, campaign finance, and ethics for public offi­cials.

Lead­ing up to this month’s midterm elec­tions, more than 100 House candid­ates called on Congress to make a govern­ment and elec­tion reform bill the first item on the agenda for the 2019 legis­lat­ive session. Last week, Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi and the bill’s primary author Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) released prelim­in­ary details of the bill in a Wash­ing­ton Post op-ed. “We believe it will have great support,” Pelosi said at a press confer­ence intro­du­cing the bill.

Sarbanes also acknow­ledged the strong voter support for the reform effort. “It’s a once-in-a-gener­a­tion oppor­tun­ity to make a bold, proud declar­a­tion back to the Amer­ican people that we get it, we hear you, we want to give you your voice back,” he said.

The Bren­nan Center has long advoc­ated for, and in some cases helped develop, many of the reforms in the bill — includ­ing auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion, early voting, and small donor public finan­cing. The bill will also require Pres­id­en­tial disclos­ure of tax returns.

“This bill is a big deal. For the first time in decades, a house of Congress is poised to seri­ously address the urgent prob­lems facing our demo­cracy so that it can work for every Amer­ican,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Bren­nan Center’s Demo­cracy program. “We are proud that the bill, as announced, will include bold and innov­at­ive reforms we pion­eered, like auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion and small-donor public finan­cing, among others.”

This legis­la­tion comes after a midterm elec­tion in which voters strongly suppor­ted a wide range of pro-demo­cracy ballot initi­at­ives, includ­ing on redis­trict­ing, voting, campaign finance, and ethics. 

“It is good to see Congress respond­ing to voters and taking up their oblig­a­tion to fix our demo­cracy,” said Weiser. “It’s time to rein in big money in our polit­ics, make voting less complic­ated for all Amer­ic­ans, stop gerry­man­der­ing, and make sure that our public offi­cials work for all Amer­ic­ans.”

(Image: Alex Wong/Getty)