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Analysis

Senators Unveil Sweeping Pro-Democracy Bill

The For the People Act would reform our election systems. But Mitch McConnell has pledged to keep the bill from getting a vote.

March 27, 2019

In the latest step toward demo­cracy reform, Senate lawmakers intro­duced the For the People Act on Wednes­day, a pack­age of legis­la­tion that would advance voting rights, reform elec­tion systems, campaign finance law, and the redis­trict­ing process, and restore voting rights for return­ing citizens.

Intro­duced by Senat­ors Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and sponsored by every Demo­crat in the Senate, the For the People Act is compan­ion to a similar bill that passed the House of Repres­ent­at­ives earlier this month in a 234–193 party-line vote. The legis­la­tion marks the first time in decades that Congress has made compre­hens­ive demo­cracy reform a cent­ral prior­ity.

“These are the key reforms needed to revital­ize our demo­cracy,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Bren­nan Center’s Demo­cracy Program. “Voters support these reforms and, in a number of states, voted over­whelm­ingly to pass several of them this past Novem­ber.”

Senate Major­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell (R-KY) has attemp­ted to char­ac­ter­ize the For the People Act as a “power grab” and has signaled that he will refuse to allow a vote on the bill. White House advisers have also said they would suggest Pres­id­ent Trump veto the bill if reached his desk.

“After an unmis­tak­able call for change from the public, and after the House passed a compan­ion bill, it is simply unac­cept­able that Leader McCon­nell has pledged to keep this bill from getting a vote,” said Weiser. “Amer­ic­ans deserve to know where their repres­ent­at­ives stand on these issues. The future health of our demo­cracy depends on it.”

Despite the hurdles McCon­nell is setting up against the full pack­age of legis­la­tion, the Senate also expects to intro­duce stan­dalone bills that will tackle indi­vidual reforms includ­ing voter regis­tra­tion modern­iz­a­tion and nation­wide restor­a­tion of voting rights. These efforts will help keep demo­cracy reforms at the center of the public agenda.

(Image: Mark Wilson/Getty)