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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)