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Analysis

H.R. 1: These Reforms Would Strengthen Our Democracy

On Capitol Hill, Brennan Center’s Weiser advocated for automatic voter registration, small-donor public financing, and restoring the Voting Rights Act.

February 15, 2019

With the conver­sa­tion build­ing in Wash­ing­ton around a historic voting rights and anti-corrup­tion bill, the Bren­nan Center’s Wendy Weiser urged members of Congress on Thursday to prior­it­ize reform­ing the coun­try’s systems of demo­cracy.

Weiser, the director of the Bren­nan Center’s Demo­cracy Program, test­i­fied in a hear­ing on H.R. 1, or the For the People Act, held by the Commit­tee on House Admin­is­tra­tion. The sweep­ing legis­la­tion, which was first intro­duced on Janu­ary 3, includes reforms that focus on voter regis­tra­tion modern­iz­a­tion, elec­tion secur­ity, and campaign finance reform, among other issues.

The Bren­nan Center has long advoc­ated for, and in many cases helped innov­ate, many of the reforms outlined in H.R. 1.  “Perhaps more than ever, Amer­ic­ans under­stand the prob­lems facing our demo­cracy,” said Weiser. “They are hungry for bold and effect­ive solu­tions to those prob­lems — like those in H.R. 1 — and real action on those solu­tions.”

Weiser submit­ted writ­ten testi­mony in support of the Act in advance of Thursday’s hear­ing.  In her comments on Thursday, she high­lighted three of the reforms outlined in H.R. 1:

  • Restor­ing the Voting Rights Act, a land­mark civil rights law that was hobbled by the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County decision;  
  • Auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion (AVR), which would stream­line how Amer­ic­ans register to vote — and could add up to 50 million new voters to the rolls; and
  • Small-donor public finan­cing, which would amplify the voices of ordin­ary voters by provid­ing public funds to match small donors. 

Thursday marked the latest in a series of hear­ings on H.R. 1, which have focused on elements of the bill ranging from pres­id­en­tial ethics to elec­tion secur­ity. The bill marks the first time in decades that either major polit­ical party has made compre­hens­ive reform of the systems of demo­cracy a cent­ral prior­ity.

(Image: Mark Wilson/Getty)