Skip Navigation
Policy Solution

Annotated Guide to H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2019

Summary: H.R. 1 would transform our democracy by making it fairer, stronger, and more inclusive. The Brennan Center explains the key provisions of this historic bill.

Published: April 13, 2020

H.R. 1 passed the House of Representatives on March 8, 2019, by a vote of 234 to 193. Its Senate companion, S. 949, was cosponsored by all 47 Democratic senators. Across 10 titles, this historic legislation would make it easier to vote in federal elections, end congressional gerrymandering, overhaul federal campaign finance laws, increase safeguards against foreign interference, strengthen government ethics rules, and more. This explainer provides details about each title and subtitle of the bill, as well as information about related legislation and pertinent Brennan Center research on the issues that the bill seeks to address.

Title I — Election Access

This title aims to modernize voter registration and take other steps to improve voting access in federal elections.


Subtitle A — Voter Registration Modernization

Background:

This subtitle would modernize voter registration processes for federal elections. The United States has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among developed nations, with nearly one in four eligible voters not registered. The reforms in this subtitle seek to boost voter registration rates by eliminating unnecessary barriers and bring voter registration systems into the 21st century.


Part 1 — Promoting Internet Registration

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This part would provide for online voter registration in federal elections nationwide. Traditionally, voters register using paper forms. State officials then manually transfer each qualified voter’s information from the paper form into the state registration system. This process is both costly and prone to error, which is why a majority of states have moved to offer online registration. As of 2020, online registration had been implemented in 39 states and the District of Columbia. This part would require its use for all federal elections. Specifically, it would:

  • require each state to provide an online voter registration application that may be completed, submitted, and received by election officials electronically; and
  • allow registered voters to update their voter registration information online.
Related Legislation:
Related Research and Materials:
Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Part 2 — Automatic Voter Registration
Background:

This part would require states to use Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) for federal elections nationwide. Under AVR, when eligible citizens provide information to government agencies like the Department of Motor Vehicles, they are automatically registered to vote (or have their existing registration information updated) unless they affirmatively decline. In other words, AVR shifts voter registration from an “opt-in” to an “opt-out” approach. As of February 2020, sixteen states and the District of Columbia had already enacted AVR. If adopted nationwide, as this part would require, AVR could register up to 50 million new eligible voters while making voter registration rolls more accurate, saving money, and cutting down on confusion and other  problems at the polls.

Summary of Key Changes:

This part would, among other things:

  • require each state to implement a process whereby eligible voters who provide information to certain state agencies (such as the DMV, social service providers, and public universities) will be automatically registered to vote unless the voter declines registration at the point of service (a so-called “front-end” opt out);
  • require state agencies to inform prospective voters that they will be automatically registered unless they decline, and inform them of voter eligibility requirements and the consequences of false registration;
  • require agencies to transfer voter registration information to election officials electronically, eliminating paper registration forms;
  • order a one-time transfer of existing records for those eligible for registration, effectively applying AVR retroactively;
  • require states to allow registered voters to update their address information at the polls;
  • authorize the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to monitor states’ election practices and provide additional funds to assist them with implementing new AVR requirements; and
  • require states to ensure that AVR processes remain nonpartisan, nondiscriminatory, and accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Related Legislation:
Related Research and Materials:
Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Part 3 — Same Day Voter Registration

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This part would require states to offer same day registration (SDR) for federal elections. Traditionally, eligible voters have been required to register in advance of an election in order to cast a ballot. In many states, the voter registration deadline falls more than four weeks before a given election. SDR allows eligible residents to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day. By ensuring that all eligible voters who go to the polls can participate in an election, SDR helps safeguard against registration system errors, cyber-attacks, and wrongful purges. As of June 2019, 20 states and the District of Columbia had enacted SDR.

This part would amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) to allow all eligible voters nationally to register and vote on the same day in federal elections, both on Election Day and during early voting periods.

Related Legislation:
Related Research and Materials:
Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Part 4 — Conditions on Removal on Basis of Interstate Cross-checks

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This part places limits on states’ use of data compiled through interstate cross-checks to purge eligible voters from the rolls. Cross-check programs are shared databases that collect voter registration records from multiple states to identify duplicate registrations. When poorly designed, their use can result in eligible voters being purged from the rolls. One program, created by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, was shown in a recent study to have a greater than 99 percent error rate. To protect against wrongful purges related to the use of such programs, this part would, among other things:

  • bar states from removing any voter’s name from the rolls without first obtaining either:
    • their full name, date of birth, and the last four digits of the individual’s social security number; or
    • documentation from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) (a non-profit partnership that allows participating states to compare official registration data through a secure data-matching tool) that a voter is no longer a resident of that state; and
  • require election officials to complete cross-check purges at least six months prior to a given election.
Related Legislation:
Related Research and Materials:
Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Part 5 — Other Initiatives to Promote Voter Registration

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This part would create additional mechanisms to facilitate voter registration. Among other things, it would:

  • amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) to ensure that pre-election registration deadlines are consistent with the timing of public holidays;
  • require the Postal Service to include a reminder to update voter registration on its hard copy change of address form; and
  • empower the EAC to make grants to states to help boost youth involvement in state election activities.
Related Legislation:
Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Part 6 — Availability of Help America Vote Act Requirement Payments

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This part would provide additional funding to help states update voter registration processes. HAVA authorizes the EAC to distribute payments to states to cover compliance with certain of its provisions. This part would allow states to use HAVA money to cover the cost of compliance with H.R. 1’s new voter registration modernization requirements.

Related Legislation:
Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Part 7 — Prohibiting Interference with Voter Registration

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This part seeks to boost safeguards against unlawful interference with voter registration. It would, among other things:

  • ban attempts to corruptly hinder, interfere with, or prevent another person from registering to vote;
  • establish criminal penalties for such conduct; and
  • direct the EAC to develop and publish recommendations for states to deter and prevent interference with voter registration.
Related Legislation:
Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Part 8 — Voter Registration Efficiency Act

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This part seeks to reduce duplicate voter registrations across states. Because many individuals register to vote when they apply for a driver’s license, information sharing between state DMVs can help ensure that individuals are not registered in multiple states. Accordingly, this part would:

  • require individuals applying for a new driver’s license to:
    • indicate the states in which they previously resided; and
    • confirm that they intend to use the new state for voter registration purposes; and
  • require state authorities to provide the voter’s responses to their counterparts in the state where the voter previously resided, who would in turn be required to notify their state’s chief election official.
Related Legislation:
Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Part 9 — Providing Voter Registration Information to Secondary School Students

Part 10 — Voter Registration of Minors

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

These parts would take steps to enhance voter participation by young Americans. Although 2018 marked a high point for youth electoral participation, young voters still turn out to vote at a lower rate than the whole of the electorate. Part 9 would direct the EAC to create a pilot program to offer funding to local initiatives that provide voter registration information to high school seniors. Part 10 would require states to allow future voters age 16 and older to pre-register to vote in federal elections once they turn 18.

Related Legislation:
Related Research and Materials:
Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Subtitle B — Access to Voting for Individuals With Disabilities

Background:

This subsection consists of the Disability Voting Rights Act, which would increase protections for the more than 35 million disabled Americans who are of voting age. Many people with disabilities face barriers to participation in elections, such as inaccessible registration procedures, polling places, and voting machines. This subtitle seeks to address some of the biggest challenges confronted by these voters.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would, among other things:

  • guarantee individuals with disabilities the right to use absentee voting procedures to register to vote and cast their ballots;
  • require states to:
    • establish processes for people with disabilities to register to vote and request an absentee ballot by mail and electronically (whichever the voter chooses);
    • establish procedures to securely transmit blank absentee ballots by mail or electronically;
    • designate a single office to provide information on registration and absentee balloting to people with disabilities; and
    • designate at least one e-mail address or other means of electronic communication for individuals with disabilities to request and receive voter registration and absentee ballot applications, which shall be included on informational and instructional materials for balloting;
  • create a process where states that feel they cannot comply with the above requirements could apply for a hardship waiver;
  • expand and reauthorize a grant program to assure voting access for individuals with disabilities;
  • direct the EAC to make grants for states to conduct pilot programs that use technology to help individuals with disabilities register to vote and cast their ballots independently and privately; and
  • direct the comptroller general of the United States to conduct an analysis after each general election of voting access for individuals with disabilities and submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle C — Prohibiting Voter Caging

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would prohibit “voter caging”—the practice of sending mail to people on the voter rolls, compiling a list of the mail that is returned undelivered, and using that list to purge or challenge voters’ registrations. Voter caging is not a reliable method for determining voter eligibility, and has in the past been employed for discriminatory and/or partisan ends. Because of its fraught history, Congress included a provision in the NVRA limiting it use. This subtitle would expand on the restrictions in the NVRA. It would, among other things:

  • prohibit election officials from using voter caging or unverified match lists (compiled by matching voters’ and/or applicants’ registration information to a list of ineligible voters without looking at additional criteria such as signatures, social security numbers, or photos to ensure that the are accurate) to prevent any individual from registering or voting in a federal election;
  • prohibit challenges to an individual’s eligibility to vote in a federal election within 10 days of Election Day, unless the individual registered to vote within 20 days of the election; and
  • establish penalties for challenging a voter’s eligibility to register or cast a ballot where the challenger knows the voter is eligible.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle D — Prohibiting Deceptive Practices and Preventing Voter Intimidation

Background:

This subtitle consists of the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act. The use of deceptive and intimidating practices is a longstanding voter suppression tactic. Moreover, the Internet and social media have made it easier to target specific communities with precision.  This is true for foreign as well as domestic actors.  For instance, the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign during the 2016 presidential election targeted African Americans, and also spread false information about voting rules, for example suggesting that people could vote by text.  Some state laws prohibit such tactics, but there is wide variation across the states. This subtitle would establish a uniform national standard and boost related safeguards.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would, among other things:

  • prohibit knowing and intentional communication of false and misleading information — including about the time, place, or manner of elections, public endorsements, and the rules governing voter eligibility and voter registration — made with the intent of preventing eligible voters from casting ballots;
  • establish federal criminal penalties for deceiving or intimidating voters;
  • direct the attorney general to:
    • upon learning that false information is being disseminated to the public, disseminate accurate information if state officials fail to do so, in a manner that does not favor any party or candidate;
    • develop written procedures for the dissemination of such corrective information; and
    • submit a report to Congress within 180 days of a federal general election documenting all allegations of deceptive practices.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle E — Democracy Restoration

Background:

This subtitle would restore federal voting rights to Americans who are disenfranchised due to a previous criminal conviction. Felony disenfranchisement laws, most of which date back to the Jim Crow era, disproportionately affect African Americans; as of 2016, they were disenfranchised at a rate four times that of all other Americans. Federal action would build off recent progress in the states, including Florida’s historic vote in 2018 to re-enfranchise approximately 1.4 million individuals with past convictions. Such action falls within Congress’s Article I power to set the rules for federal elections, as well as its authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to stop discriminatory denials of the right to vote.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would:

  • guarantee federal voting rights for citizens with past felony convictions who have completed their sentences; and
  • require states to inform citizens of their restored voting rights in writing.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle F — Promoting Accuracy, Integrity, and Security Through Voter-Verified Permanent Paper Ballot

Background:

This subtitle would require all jurisdictions to use paper ballots that voters can mark by hand or with a ballot marking device. Voting machines and other infrastructure are likely to be a target for hackers and others looking to disrupt or otherwise interfere with U.S. elections, including those working for foreign governments. Paper ballots are an important safeguard against such threats, because they create a tangible record of each voter’s selections that the voter can use to ensure their choices have been accurately recorded and that election officials can use to verify electronic results. Ballots that can be marked by hand also provide insurance against ordinary equipment failures that can result in long lines at the polls. Since the 2016 election, many jurisdictions have replaced outdated paperless voting equipment — but as many as 16 million Americans may still end up casting their votes using paperless machines in 2020. This subtitle aims to eliminate the risk of paperless voting machines in all federal elections.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would, among other things:

  • require state and local officials to:
    • conduct federal elections using “voter-verified paper ballots”— i.e. ballots that can be marked either by hand or a ballot marking device and inspected by the voter before the ballot is cast;
    • give voters the opportunity to correct any errors on their paper ballot before it is cast;
    • give voters the option to mark their ballots by hand;
    • preserve paper ballots for recounts or audits;
    • count ballots by hand for recounts and audits; and
    • provide individuals with disabilities the opportunity to vote privately and independently using paper ballots;
  • instruct the director of the National Science Foundation to make grants to study, test, and develop accessible paper ballot voting, verification, and casting mechanisms, as well as develop best practices for making paper ballot voting and verification procedures accessible to individuals with disabilities;
  • establish durability and readability requirements for voter-verified paper ballots; and
  • direct the EAC to study and report on optimal ballot design.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle G — Provisional Ballots

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would create additional safeguards for provisional balloting. Under HAVA, voters whose registration and eligibility cannot be determined at the polling place must be offered a provisional ballot that is counted once the voter’s eligibility has been verified. Provisional balloting procedures vary greatly across states. In some places, even eligible voters may not have their provisional ballots counted — if, for example, the voter accidentally cast their ballots in the wrong precinct. To address these issues, this subtitle would:

  • require every provisional ballot to be counted with respect to the contests in which the voter who cast it was eligible to vote (so, for example, a voter who cast their ballot in a precinct where they were ineligible to vote in local contests would still have their vote for statewide office counted); and
  • require states to establish uniform and nondiscriminatory standards for issuing, handling, and counting provisional ballots in federal elections.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle H — Early Voting

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would create a nationwide standard for early voting in federal elections. Voting on a single weekday can be challenging for many Americans with work, family, or other obligations, especially when long lines form at the polls. In-person early voting, including on weekends and during evening hours, helps shorten lines and allows people to cast their ballots when it is most convenient. Many states have already passed laws permitting citizens to vote in person prior to Election Day. This subtitle would extend early voting to all 50 states and establish minimum standards for its implementation. Specifically, it would:

  • require states to allow at least two weeks of early voting for federal elections (including weekends), for a period of at least ten hours per day, including some early morning and evening hours; and
  • require states to ensure, to the greatest extent practicable, that early voting locations are within walking distance of public transportation, and are also accessible to rural voters.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle I — Voting by Mail

Background:

This subtitle would expand opportunities to vote by mail in federal elections. Voting by mail is increasingly prevalent. One Census Bureau survey suggests that more than a quarter of ballots in 2018 were cast by mail. This subtitle would create a national standard permitting ballots to be cast by mail in most instances for federal elections.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would, among other things:

  • require states to allow any eligible voter whose identity can be verified by matching the signature on their ballot with the signature in their registration file to vote by mail;
  • require state and local election officials to make a good faith effort to inform any voter if their signature appears not to match the one on file, and give the voter an opportunity to resolve the discrepancy within seven days of the election;
  • require signature discrepancy determinations to be made by at least two trained election officials;
  • require states to provide mail-in ballots and related materials no later than two weeks before an election, or as expeditiously as possible if the deadline for requesting to vote by mail is less than two weeks before an election;
  • require mail-in ballots to be accessible for voters with disabilities;
  • require return envelopes for mail-in ballots to be prepaid;
  • require mail-in ballots postmarked on or before the date of the election to be accepted; and
  • allow voters to return ballots at a polling place on election day.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle J — Absent Uniformed Services Voters and Overseas Voters

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle aims to protect voting rights for absent military and overseas voters by ensuring they receive their ballots earlier. According to data compiled by the EAC, 44.4 percent of overseas ballots that were rejected were not counted because they were not received on time. Research from the Federal Voting Assistance Program suggests that if military and overseas voters receive their ballots earlier, they are more likely to return them, and the ballots are less likely to be rejected by state officials. Accordingly, this subtitle would, among other things:

  • require all states to transmit absentee ballots to absent uniformed service voters and overseas voters at least 45 days before a federal election (provided a request was received at least 45 days before the election);
  • require states to count spouses and dependents of absent servicemembers as residents (current law extends the guarantee of residency only to servicemembers themselves);
  • establish a cause of action for violations of these provisions, enforceable by the attorney general or private litigants; and
  • require states to submit pre- and post-election reports to Congress documenting the availability of absentee balloting for servicemembers and overseas voters, how many ballots were transmitted, and how many were returned.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle K — Poll Worker Recruitment and Training

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle provides for grants to fund poll worker recruitment and training. Inexperienced, untrained poll workers can contribute to long lines and other problems that make it harder to vote. To help address this problem, this subtitle would, among other things, direct the EAC to make grants to states for recruiting and training poll workers and prepare a manual for grantees documenting best practices.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle L — Enhancement of Enforcement

Background & Key Changes:

This subtitle would expand mechanisms for processing complaints alleging a violation of HAVA’s minimum standards governing ballots and voting machines, polling place accessibility, provisional balloting, and other aspects of the voting process. Under current law, complaints are submitted directly to state officials according to procedures that vary considerably across states, with some states providing little or no information about how to submit a complaint. To address this issue, this subtitle would:

  • allow individuals to file notarized complaints with the U.S. attorney general (who has authority to sue states in federal court to enforce HAVA’s provisions);
  • direct the attorney general to respond to each complaint and provide both the complaint and response to relevant state officials; and
  • create a right for private litigants to sue for certain HAVA violations related to inadequate voting technology.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle M — Federal Election Integrity

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would address apparent conflicts of interest on the part of chief state election officials, such as elected secretaries of state, who are either on the ballot or otherwise participating in an election they are also administering. It would prohibit them from being involved in any campaign with respect to an election for federal office they are overseeing, unless the official is the candidate, in which case they would be required to recuse from overseeing the election in which they are running.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle N — Promoting Voter Access Through Election Administration

Background:

This subtitle would make a number of additional changes to improve voting access and the administration of federal elections.


Part 1 — Promoting Voter Access

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This part includes several reforms that aim to promote voting access for students, voters who lack identification, and voters who may have difficulty voting in person on Election Day. Among other things, it would:

  • amend the NVRA to treat public universities as “voter registration agencies,” which would obligate them to facilitate voter registration in connection to providing other services (as is currently the case for state DMVs and public assistance agencies);
  • express a sense of Congress that students should be allowed to vote in the jurisdiction where they are attending school;
  • require states to provide notice of polling place changes at least seven days before an election;
  • designate Election Day as a federal holiday;
  • require states with voter identification requirements to permit voters who lack i.d. to vote if they complete a sworn written statement attesting to their identity (unless the individual is a first-time voter who registered by mail);
  • provide free postage for absentee ballots and funds to assist the states in tracking absentee ballots;
  • direct the attorney general to coordinate the establishment of state-based voter information response systems and hotlines to assist people with voting or voter registration problems; and
  • require states to limit variations in the number of hours of operation for polling places within the state.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Part 2 — Improvements in Operation of Election Assistance Commission

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This part deals with the EAC, an independent, bipartisan commission that was created under HAVA to serve as a national clearinghouse of information about election administration. The EAC’s original budget authorization expired more than a decade ago, although Congress has continued to fund the agency on a year-to-year basis. This part would, among other things, permanently reauthorize the EAC and require states to participate in the agency’s post-general election surveys of voting issues that occurred.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Part 3 — Miscellaneous Provisions

Background & Summary of Key Changes

This part extends application of the NVRA and HAVA to the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States.

Related Legislation:

Back to top of title

Subtitle O — Severability

This subtitle would provide that if any of the other provisions of Title I are found unconstitutional, the remainder of the title would not be affected by the holding.

Back to top of title

Title II — Election Integrity

This title would address restoration of the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and several other pressing voting rights issues, and also seeks to curb partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts.


Subtitle A — Findings Reaffirming Commitment of Congress to Restore the Voting Rights Act

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would affirm Congress’s commitment to update and restore the full protections of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). The VRA is considered the most effective civil rights legislation in the history of the United States. Much of that success rested upon Section 5’s pre-clearance provision, which required states and localities with histories of discriminatory voting practices to secure federal government approval prior to making any changes to their voting rules. In Shelby County v. Holder (2013), however, the Supreme Court rendered Section 5 inoperable by striking down the coverage formula used to determine which states were subject to pre-clearance. The Shelby County decision allowed states to move forward with many new voting restrictions that previously would have been subject to federal pre-clearance. After building an extensive legislative record, the House fulfilled the commitment made in this subtitle on December 6, 2019, when it passed H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle B — Findings Relating to Native American Voting Rights

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would commit to protecting and promoting Native American voting rights. It notes that Native American voters have faced many obstacles to voting, such as discriminatory voter identification laws, inadequate language assistance, and a lack of conveniently located registration and voting sites. These obstacles continued through the 2018 elections. In response, the subtitle would commit Congress to hold hearings on legislation to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act (which passed on December 6, 2019) and on H.R. 1694, the Native American Voting Rights Act of 2019.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle C — Findings Relating to District of Columbia Statehood

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would make findings in support of statehood for the District of Columbia. It notes, among other things, that District residents have always carried out all the obligations of citizenship, but without congressional voting rights or self-determination in purely local matters. Moreover, the District is larger in terms of population than two other states, pays more per capita in taxes than any state, and is in one of the strongest fiscal positions of any U.S. jurisdiction. The subtitle would affirm the authority of Congress under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution to create a new state out of the area that currently comprises the District, while maintaining the federal seat of government in the areas compromising the Capitol complex, the White House, the National Mall, and other federal buildings and grounds. That legislation, H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admissions Act, was introduced on January 3, 2020.

Related Legislation:

Back to top of title

Subtitle D — Territorial Voting Rights

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would make findings in support of federal voting rights for Americans living in the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It would also establish a congressional task force to analyze roadblocks to enfranchisement in the territories, in order to recommend measures to facilitate federal voting rights for citizens there.

Related Legislation:

Back to top of title

Subtitle E — Redistricting Reform

Background:

This subtitle consists of the Redistricting Reform Act of 2019, which establishes new requirements for congressional redistricting, including uniform rules for drawing districts, a ban partisan gerrymandering, stronger protections for minority communities, and a requirement that states use independent commissions to draw maps. Last decade, new map-drawing technologies helped both parties draw congressional maps to insulate seats from even the most dramatic shifts in political winds. In many instances, partisan gerrymandering also limited the ability of communities of color to elect candidates of their choice. Although the Supreme Court recognized that such extreme gerrymandering is at odds with bedrock constitutional principles, last year it held that partisan gerrymandering was a “political question” and declined to intervene. But momentum for reform continues to build. In the past two years alone, five states passed measures creating independent commissions or otherwise significantly overhauling congressional redistricting, all by bipartisan margins. A total of 22 states now place some significant constraint on partisan gerrymandering for congressional and/or state legislative apportionment. The provisions in this subsection are modeled on these state-level reforms.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would, among other things:

  • ban partisan gerrymandering by prohibiting the adoption of any map that “unduly favor[s] or disfavor[s]” one political party over another;
  • establish uniform rules that every state would have to follow when drawing congressional districts, including enhanced protections for racial, ethnic and language minorities and a mandate to respect and preserve communities of interest, where possible,
  • require that states use independent redistricting commissions to carry out congressional redistricting, and require these commissions to:
    • include an equal number of Republican, Democratic, and unaffiliated members, with voting rules designed to ensure that no one party can dominate the redistricting process;
    • include members who are representative of the state’s demographic makeup and different geographic regions, with enough members from racial, ethnic, and language minorities to give those groups a meaningful opportunity to participate in the redistricting process; and
    • screen all members for conflicts of interest; and
  • require congressional redistricting to be transparent and participatory, with open meetings and public hearings, opportunities for the public to comment on proposed maps, and public access to underlying data and software used to draw district lines; and
  • give voters an expedited right of action to redress violations of this subtitle.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle F — Saving Eligible Voters From Voter Purging

Background:

This subtitle would create new safeguards against improper purges of the voting rolls. Purge rates have increased in recent years, especially in states previously subject to federal pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Flawed purges can leave large numbers of eligible voters off the rolls and unable to vote. Without adequate notice, some of these voters may still show up on Election Day, resulting in confusion and longer lines at the polls. This subtitle would establish new protections that aim to protect eligible voters from being purged and ensure that purged voters are made aware of changes to their registration status ahead of an election.

Summary of Key Changes:

Among other things, this subtitle would:

  • require that any decision to purge a voter be based on “objective and reliable evidence” that the voter is no longer eligible—which could not include:
    • failure to vote;
    • failure to respond to a mailed notice, unless the notice is returned as undeliverable; or
    • failure to take any other action with respect to voting.
  • require election officials to:
    • provide timely notice to any voter removed from the rolls, and an opportunity to contest that removal or get their registration reinstated;
    • publish a public notice within 48 hours of a purge being conducted

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle G — No Effect on Authority of States to Provide Greater Opportunities for Voting

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would establish that the provisions of Title II do not prevent states from passing laws to expand opportunities for voter registration and voting in federal elections that go beyond this title.

Back to top of title

Subtitle H — Residence of Incarcerated Individuals

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would require that the Census Bureau record incarcerated persons as living in their pre-incarceration communities rather than at the prison facilities where they are serving their sentences. The Census Bureau’s current practice is to count incarcerated people as living in the communities where they are incarcerated, which entitles those communities to a larger share of legislative seats and government resources. But most incarcerated people have little or no connection to the communities where they are incarcerated, and typically return to their home communities upon release. This subtitle would direct the Bureau to count incarcerated people at their last address prior to imprisonment. It would also direct the commerce secretary, who oversees the Bureau, to consult with state corrections departments to gather the relevant information about home addresses of incarcerated persons.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle I — Severability

This subtitle would provide that if any of the other provisions of Title II are found unconstitutional, the remainder of the title would not be affected by the holding.

Back to top of title

Title III — Election Security

This title aims to improve the security of U.S. election infrastructure to counter the threat of foreign interference.


Subtitle A — Financial Support for Election Infrastructure

Background:

This subtitle would establish a variety of new grants to fund election security upgrades. States and localities are on the front lines of protecting U.S. elections against foreign interference. They rely on the federal government for help in paying for equipment upgrades and other security enhancements. While the federal government is likely to provide some additional funding in this year’s budget, more still needs to be done.

Back to top of title

Part 1 — Voting System Security Improvement Grants

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This part would provide grants for states and localities to update voting systems. It would also create new security requirements for private companies that sell voting machines and other election equipment purchased with grant money. These companies are currently subject to almost no federal regulation. Specifically, this part would, among other things:

  • direct the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to provide grants to states to upgrade voting systems to comply with applicable laws and voluntary guidance promulgated by the Commission, improve ballot design, and perform other security upgrades;
  • impose a number of requirements on vendors whose products are purchased with grant money, including that the vendor:
    • be owned and controlled by citizens or permanent residents of the United States;
    • disclose any election infrastructure parts sourced from outside the United States to the EAC, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the chief election official of any state with which the vendor does business;
    • comply with technical guidelines for election infrastructure promulgated by the EAC;
    • report cybersecurity incidents involving goods and services provided by the vendor to the EAC and DHS; and
    • permit the EAC and DHS to conduct independent cybersecurity testing on the goods and services that the vendor provides.
Related Legislation:
Related Research and Materials:
Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Part 2 — Grants for Risk-Limiting Audits of Results of Elections

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This part would provide funds for states to conduct risk-limiting audits (RLAs) of their election results. In an RLA, election officials manually recount a sufficient number of paper ballots to ensure with a high level of statistical probability that the electronic tally is accurate. To encourage state and local officials to conduct more RLAs, this part would, among other things, direct the EAC to issue grants to state officials to conduct RLAs and establish minimum requirements for grant-funded RLAs.

Related Legislation:
Related Research and Materials:
Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Part 3 — Election Infrastructure Innovation Grant Program

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This part would direct DHS (in consultation with the EAC and the National Science Foundation) to establish competitive private sector grants to incentivize research and development regarding new and efficient ways to improve the security of elections.

Related Legislation:
Related Research and Materials:
Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Subtitle B — Security Measures

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle aims to facilitate timely information sharing between federal and state governments about security threats faced by state election systems. It would, among other things:

  • authorize DHS to ease security clearances for state election officials;
  • direct DHS to submit annual reports to Congress on information sharing with state election officials, as well as foreign threats to election infrastructure; and
  • direct the director of national intelligence to prepare a comprehensive pre-election threat assessment 180 days before every regularly scheduled general election, for distribution to Congress and chief state election officials.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle C — Enhancing Protections for United States Democratic Institutions

Background:

This subtitle would direct the president to develop a national strategy and implementation plan to protect democratic institutions from threats — such as cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns — from other countries and non-governmental actors (foreign and domestic). It would also establish a national commission within the legislative branch tasked with holding hearings, gathering evidence, and reporting its findings and recommendations to Congress on ways to increase protections for American democratic institutions.

Related Legislation:

Back to top of title

Subtitle D — Promoting Cybersecurity Through Improvements in Election Administration

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would expand the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)’s voluntary testing and certification process for voting machines and other equipment. Among other things, that process currently does not include electronic poll books — the equipment (usually a tablet computer loaded with voter registration data) used to check in voters and confirm their registrations. This subtitle would, among other things:

  • amend the definition of “voting systems” subject to voluntary testing and certification under HAVA to include electronic poll books;
  • direct the EAC to develop cybersecurity guidelines to incorporate into the testing and certification process;
  • direct the EAC to decertify equipment used in prior elections that fails to meet existing guidelines; and
  • require states to submit detailed information to the EAC 120 days before a general election regarding how they plan to use voting systems.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle E — Preventing Election Hacking

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would direct DHS to establish “bug bounty” programs for election systems. A bug bounty is compensation provided to ethical, “white hat” hackers for discovering and reporting technological vulnerabilities. Bug bounties have become a common tool in both government (including the Department of Defense) and the private sector. This subtitle would direct DHS to create programs to encourage independent cybersecurity assessments in cooperation with voluntarily participating state and local election officials and election system vendors.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle F — Election Security Grants Advisory Committee

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would create a 15-member advisory committee of election security experts, appointed by the EAC’s executive director, to review election security grant applications and make recommendations to the Commission as to how money should be awarded.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle G — Miscellaneous Provisions

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would require the chair of the EAC and the secretary of homeland security to evaluate the adequacy of the funding, resources, and personnel available to implement new election security requirements and submit a report to Congress.

Related Legislation:

Back to top of title

Subtitle H — Use of Voting Machines Manufactured in the United States

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would direct states to ensure that, as of the November 2022 general election, all voting machines used for federal elections are manufactured in the United States, in response to concerns that have been raised about suppliers with ties to foreign governments.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle I — Severability

This subtitle would provide that if any of the other provisions of Title III are found unconstitutional, the remainder of the title would not be affected by the holding.

Back to top of title

Title IV — Campaign Finance Transparency

The provisions in this title aim to increase campaign finance transparency, deter corruption, and prevent foreign money from infiltrating U.S. elections.


Subtitle A — Findings Relating to Illicit Money Undermining Our Democracy

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would make findings on the danger posed to American democracy by secret money, some originating overseas. It notes that anonymously held limited liability corporations can be abused by criminals, terrorists, and corrupt government officials to move and launder dirty money around the world. The release of the “Panama Papers” and the “Paradise Papers” demonstrated how anonymous shell companies frequently purchase U.S. real estate with cash to avoid anti-money laundering laws. The subtitle goes on to conclude that Congress should require U.S. companies to disclose their beneficial owners, strengthen existing anti-money laundering laws, and monitor efforts to enforce anti-corruption laws and regulations.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title


Subtitle B — DISCLOSE Act

Background:

This subtitle consists of the DISCLOSE Act, which aims to bolster transparency in federal elections and strengthen safeguards against foreign interference. Citizens United made it possible for many new types of entities to spend money on electoral advocacy without being subject to any legal limits. Gaps in the law make it possible for these entities to keep their sources of funding secret — which is why their spending is often called “dark money.” Dark money groups have spent more than $1 billion on federal elections since 2010. Almost all of this spending is concentrated on the most competitive races. Dark money is also an avenue for foreign funds to infiltrate U.S. campaigns. The DISCLOSE Act seeks to close the major loopholes responsible for dark money and make other related changes to protect the integrity of the U.S. political system.

Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title


Part 1 — Regulation of Certain Political Spending

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This part would expand the prohibition on campaign spending by foreign nationals. Current law bars non-U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (“foreign nationals”) from making campaign contributions or certain types of expenditures in federal, state, or local elections. But this prohibition does not extend to companies they own or otherwise control, or, according to the FEC’s interpretation, to state and local ballot initiative and referenda campaigns. Moreover, it does not cover the full range of political ads, including many of the ads Kremlin operatives deployed to interfere in the 2016 election. Among other things, this part would:

  • clarify that foreign nationals are banned from participating in any aspect of decision-making related to campaign spending by any person, corporation, union, political committee, or other political organization;
  • require that any organization making a federal campaign contribution or expenditure first certify that no foreign nationals were involved in the relevant decision-making process.
  • clarify that the ban on foreign national campaign spending applies to ballot measure and referenda campaigns; and
  • expand the range of communications covered by the foreign national ban to cover many of the types of political ads commonly deployed to interfere in U.S. elections, including paid issue ads funded by foreign governments or their agents.
Related Legislation:
Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title


Part 2 — Reporting of Campaign-Related Disbursements

This part would close loopholes that have permitted dark money groups to keep the donors who fund their campaign spending secret. Its provisions are similar to legislation passed by a number of states over the last decade, often with strong bipartisan support. Among other things, this part would:

  • require any corporation, union, nonprofit, or similar organization spending more than $10,000 per election cycle to disclose:
    • all donors who gave at least $10,000 during that cycle, unless the donor restricted the use of funds, the funds were received in the ordinary course of the organization’s business, or disclosure would subject the donor to serious threats of harassment or reprisal;
    • all campaign-related disbursements above $1000, the name of the candidate supported or opposed by the disbursement, and a certification that the spending was not coordinated with any candidate; and
    • every person who has a substantial ownership or control interest in the organization;
  • give covered organizations that do not want to disclose all of their donors the option of establishing a segregated fund from which to pay for all campaign spending, in which case only donors to the fund would need to be disclosed; and
  • clarify that an organization that transfers funds to others for the purpose of paying for campaign spending is also subject to the Act (with special rules for transfers among corporate affiliates).
Related Legislation:
Related Research and Materials

Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title


Part 3 — Other Administrative Reforms

This part would address certain procedural issues that have arisen in lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of federal campaign finance laws and regulations. Among other things, it would require such challenges to be filed and litigated in the federal courts of the District of Columbia. It would also require that Members of Congress be given standing to participate in such cases.

Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title


Subtitle C — Honest Ads

Background:

This subtitle consists of the Honest Ads Act, which would increase transparency requirements for online political ads and take other steps to combat foreign interference. Most online political ads are not covered under current campaign finance laws, allowing anonymous groups to purchase targeted digital ads without disclosing who paid for them. In the 2016 election, Kremlin-backed groups took advantage of these loopholes to purchase thousands of ads, which reached millions of Americans. This subtitle would update federal transparency rules to reach the sorts of ads the Russian government and others seeking to interfere in U.S. elections commonly deploy.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would, among other things:

  • extend generally applicable transparency and other rules to paid internet and digital communications that mention federal candidates in the run-up to an election and reach significant numbers of people;
  • strengthen “paid for” disclaimers on online ads to ensure that all ads disclose “in a clear and conspicuous manner” who paid for and authorized them;
  • require online platforms with at least 50 million unique monthly U.S. visitors to create a database of all requests they receive to purchase political advertisements, including a copy of the ad, the ad’s targeted audience and number of views, the rate charged for the ad, and the purchaser of the ad; and
  • require broadcast stations, cable and satellite providers, and online platforms to make reasonable efforts to ensure that political advertisements are not purchased by foreign nationals.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title


Subtitle D — Stand By Every Ad

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle consists of the Stand By Every Ad Act, which would require outside groups like super PACs who purchase political advertisements to disclose their top donors and chief officials in a disclaimer as part of the ad. Currently, disclaimers need disclose only the name of the organization that purchased the ad, which often consists of an anodyne phrase (“Americans for Prosperity,” “Priorities USA”) that is meaningless to ordinary viewers or listeners. This subtitle would, among other things:

  • require political advertisements from outside groups to contain disclaimers naming:
    • for video and online ads, their top five donors or a link to a website with that information;
    • for audio ads (including prerecorded telephone calls). their top two donors or a link to a website with that information;
  • require a group’s highest ranking official to also disclose their name and title as part of the ad; and
  • create special rules for video communications lasting ten seconds or less.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title


Subtitle E — Secret Money Transparency

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would repeal a budget rider prohibiting the Internal Revenue Service from requiring greater transparency from tax-exempt organizations. Many organizations registered under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code engage in substantial campaign activities but are not required to disclose their donors. Repeal of the rider would allow the IRS to require them to disclose the donors who fund their political activities as a condition of their tax-exempt status.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title


Subtitle F — Shareholder Right-to-Know

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would require publicly traded companies to consult with their shareholders before making political expenditures and permit the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to create additional requirements. Current law generally does not require that shareholders be consulted before their company spends money on politics. Because many corporations give to dark money groups that keep their donors secret, shareholders often are not even aware of a company’s political spending. In response, this subtitle would:

  • require publicly traded companies, before making a political expenditure, to assess the preferences of their shareholders regarding whether the company ought to make political expenditures, which candidates or parties the company ought to support or oppose, and which elections the company should seek to influence;
  • specify that if a majority of a company’s shares are held by persons prohibited by law, contract or fiduciary duty from expressing partisan or political preferences, those companies are not capable of fulfilling the requirements of this subtitle and are therefore prohibited from making political expenditures; and
  • repeal a budget rider prohibiting the SEC from issuing or implementing any rules related to the disclosure of political spending by publicly traded corporations.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title


Subtitle G — Disclosure of Political Spending by Government Contractors

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would repeal a budget rider prohibiting the president from requiring entities applying for federal contracts to disclose their political spending in federal elections. Although federal contractors are prohibited from making contributions because of the heightened risk of corruption, companies can often avoid this restriction by giving through corporate affiliates, officers or shareholders. Repeal of the budget rider would allow the president to issue an executive order requiring all contractor-affiliated contributions to be disclosed, including contributions to dark money groups that keep their donors secret.

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title


Subtitle H — Limitation and Disclosure Requirements for Presidential Inaugural Committees

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle consists of the Presidential Inaugural Committee Oversight Act, which would impose new safeguards for donations to Presidential Inaugural Committees. Inaugural committees are currently exempt from most campaign finance regulations. Donations are unlimited and can come from corporations. While foreign nationals are prohibited from giving to inaugural committees, they have previously used intermediaries to evade these restrictions. This subtitle would, among other things:

  • limit donations to Inaugural Committees to $50,000 (to be adjusted going forward for inflation);
  • require all donations over $1000 to be disclosed within 24 hours;
  • prohibit Inaugural Committees from soliciting or accepting donations from corporations;
  • prohibit donations to Inaugural Committees that are made on behalf of another person; and
  • prohibit the use of money donated to an Inaugural Committee for non-Inaugural purposes, other than donations to charity.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title


Subtitle I — Severability

This subtitle would provide that if any of the other provisions of Title IV are found unconstitutional, the remainder of the title would not be affected by the holding.

Back to top of title

Title V — Campaign Finance Empowerment

The provisions in this title aim to counter the harmful effects of Citizens United v. FEC and related court decisions by empowering small donors and taking other steps to help working and middle class candidates run for office.


Subtitle A — Findings Relating to Citizens United Decision

Background:

This subtitle would make findings about the harmful effects of Citizens United and related court decisions. It notes that Citizens United overturned more than a century of precedent allowing reasonable campaign spending limits, including restrictions on corporate and union spending. Thanks to the Court’s decisions, wealthy special interests have spent billions of dollars to influence U.S. elections, drowning out the voices and preferences of ordinary Americans. This subtitle would find that the Constitution should be amended to allow Congress and the states to set reasonable campaign spending limits that distinguish between natural persons and artificial entities like corporations.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle B — Congressional Elections

Background:

This subtitle would establish a system of voluntary small donor public financing for elections to the House of Representatives, along with a funding mechanism — the “Freedom From Influence Fund” — that would fund public financing without using any taxpayer money. Citizens United and other court decisions dramatically shifted the fundraising balance in federal elections away from small donors towards elite donors able to give $100,000 or more. The latter accounted for more than a third of all the money spent in the 2018 midterms (up from less than ten percent a decade ago), with most of this total coming from donors who spent more than $1 million. A mere eleven individuals have contributed roughly a fifth of the $4.9 billion that super PACs have raised since 2010. The central role of elite donors in our political system inevitably requires elected officials to focus on their priorities, even when they are not shared by most other Americans. This system also makes it challenging for those who lack wealthy networks to run for office, including many people of color and women of all backgrounds. This subtitle would address these concerns through a fundamental overhaul of how congressional campaigns are funded.

Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Part 1 — My Voice Voucher Pilot Program

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This part would establish a “My Voice Voucher” pilot program in three states. Voucher programs typically provide eligible citizens with small grants to award to any participating candidate. The city of Seattle implemented a voucher program for city elections in 2017. Preliminary research has shown that the program allows city candidates to raise more money from city residents, and has also broadened the city’s donor base to include more women, people of color, and non-wealthy residents. This subtitle would establish a voucher pilot program in three states under which eligible voting-age citizens could request vouchers worth $25 and donate them to the congressional candidates of their choice.

Related Legislation:
Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Part 2 — Small Dollar Financing of Congressional Election Campaigns

Background:

This part would establish a small donor matching system for Congressional elections. Small donor matching provides candidates with a “match” of public funding for eligible private donations — for example, a private donation of $100 to a candidate participating in a 6-1 matching system would attract $600 in matching public funds, for a total contribution of $700. Small donor matching was used in presidential primary elections for decades, and has also been implemented in many states and localities. Research on New York City’s longstanding small donor matching program has found that it helps candidates to raise more money from small donors in their districts, encourages a broader and more diverse population to give, and also helps bolster diversity in who runs for office. Based in part on the success of New York City’s system, the State of New York recently adopted a small donor matching program for all state elections. This part would create a similar matching program.

Summary of Key Changes:

This part would, among other things:

  • establish a voluntary small donor matching system for congressional elections, under which donations of up to $200 to participating congressional candidates would be matched at a 6-1 ratio with public funds;
  • create a “Freedom From Influence Fund” as the exclusive source of funds for all federal public financing programs, to be funded primarily by a 2.75 percent surcharge on criminal or civil penalties and settlements from corporations, corporate officers, or (in very limited cases) individual tax code violators who are in the top income bracket;
  • set conditions and requirements for participating candidates, including the following:
    • raise at least $50,000 in small donations from at least 1,000 individuals to qualify;
    • adhere to a $1,000 individual limit for all contributions (indexed to inflation) and additional fundraising restrictions;
    • limit use of personal funds to $50,000;
    • disclose all contributors;
    • spend public and privately raised funds at the same rate;
    • spend public funds only for campaign-related purposes; and
    • return unspent public funds exceeding $100,000.
  • create an “enhanced match” of up to $500,000 for participating candidates on the general election ballot who meet additional qualifications and requirements; and
  • establish civil penalties for participating candidates who violate the terms of the program.
Related Legislation:
Related Research and Materials:
Back to top of subtitle
Back to top of title

Subtitle C — Presidential Elections

Background:

This subtitle aims to revamp the existing presidential public financing program. The system, which was first introduced in 1976, matches small donations to primary candidates at a 1-1 ratio and provides a block grant to party nominees for the general election. Most major Democratic and Republican candidates, including every candidate who won their party’s nomination, used the system until 2008. In 1984, President Reagan won reelection under the system without holding any fundraisers. More recently, however, the amount of funds provided under the system and its strict limits on how much participating candidates can spend have not kept pace with the mounting cost of campaigns. Since 2012, neither major party nominee has used the system. This subtitle would update the presidential public financing system to make it once again viable. Its provisions, like those in the previous subtitle, would be funded exclusively by the new Freedom From Influence Fund.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would, among other things:

  • increase the match for primary candidates to a 6-1 ratio on contributions of $200 or less;
  • require candidates to receive $25,000 in small donations from donors spread across 20 states in order to qualify for public funding;
  • impose a $1,000 individual contribution limit for participating candidates (indexed to inflation) and other requirements similar to those for participating congressional candidates under the previous subtitle;
  • replace general election block grants with a 6-1 match on small donations, with total public funds limited to $250 million per candidate (indexed to inflation);
  • eliminate expenditure limits for participating candidates in the primary and general election;
  • allow the national committees of political parties to spend more money in coordination with their candidates; and
  • require participating candidates to commit to using the public financing system and adhering to its requirements for both the primary and general election, if they win their party’s nomination.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle D — Personal Use Services as Authorized Campaign Expenditures

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle consists of the Help America Run Act (HARA), which would allow federal candidates who are not incumbents to use their campaign funds for childcare and certain other expenses. Running for office can often preclude full-time paid work. The need to cover childcare and other living expenses can function as a barrier making it harder for non-wealthy candidates, especially women, to run. While candidates are allowed to use campaign funds to pay themselves a salary up to the amount they would earn if elected, many choose not to do so. As an alternative, this subtitle would allow non-incumbents to use campaign funds to pay for child, elder, and dependent care, and health insurance premiums.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle E — Empowering Small Dollar Donations

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would allow political party committees to create designated small-donor accounts subject to fewer restrictions than other party committee accounts. Current law limits the amount of direct support traditional party organizations can give to their own candidates (including through coordinated spending), due to the risk that large donations to the parties will be used to circumvent candidate contribution limits. These and other restrictions mean that party organizations are subject to significantly more regulation than super PACs and other outside groups. This subtitle seeks to counter this imbalance and encourage the parties to raise more small contributions. It would allow them to establish special accounts funded by donors who give $200 or less, from which they could donate up to $10,000 to any federal candidate (twice the current limit of $5,000) and also spend unlimited funds in coordination with candidates.

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle F — Severability

This subtitle would provide that if any of the other provisions of Title V are found unconstitutional, the remainder of the title would not be affected by the holding.

Back to top of title

Title VI — Campaign Finance Oversight

This title aims to improve the administration and enforcement of campaign finance rules and take other steps to counter corruption.


Subtitle A — Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections

Background:

This subtitle would overhaul the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which is responsible for the administration and enforcement of most federal campaign finance laws. The FEC’s six seats are evenly divided between Democratic and Republican appointees. Over the last decade, as partisan polarization in Washington has increased, commissioners have been unable to reach agreement on most of the critical issues that have come before them. That has produced a steep drop off in enforcement and has also largely prevented the agency from issuing new regulations or other guidance to deal with emerging problems, such as the threat of foreign interference in U.S. elections. Currently, the FEC does not even have a quorum, preventing it from carrying out most of its statutory responsibilities. This subtitle seeks to address the FEC’s many weaknesses by bringing its structure more in line with that of other independent federal regulators, but with more safeguards against partisan overreach and other types of abuse.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would, among other things:

  • reduce the number of commissioners from six to five, with no more than two commissioners from any one party (effectively requiring one commissioner to be a tie-breaking independent);
  • require the use of a bipartisan blue-ribbon advisory commission to publicly vet potential nominees;
  • give the FEC a real chairperson to serve as its chief administrative officer;
  • end the practice of allowing commissioners to serve indefinitely past the expiration of their terms as holdovers;
  • streamline the FEC’s enforcement process by giving its career staff the ability to investigate alleged violations and dismiss frivolous complaints; and
  • provide for stronger judicial review of FEC enforcement decisions, including decisions to dismiss alleged violations without investigation.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle B — Stopping Super PAC—Candidate Coordination

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would tighten restrictions on coordination between candidates and outside groups, such as super PACs. Federal law treats spending that is coordinated with a candidate as a direct contribution to that candidate and thus subject to limits. Under Citizens United, supposedly “independent” groups like super PACs that do not make such contributions cannot be subject to any limits, on the theory that donations to them are not especially valuable to candidates, and so unlikely to be traded for government favors. But the independence of these groups is often fictitious. Many actually maintain strong ties to candidates and work closely with their campaigns. This subtitle aims to address the disconnect between Citizens United’s core premise and the reality of how super PACs and other outside groups actually operate. It would, among other things:

  • expand the types of campaign spending that would be deemed a contribution if coordinated with a candidate;
  • clarify that an outside group’s reproduction of campaign-produced video footage (so-called “b-roll footage”) also constitutes a contribution; and
  • establish a new category of “coordinated spenders” whose actual ties to candidates — such as being run by their former staff or the candidate fundraising for the group — are so close that all the group’s spending in support of the candidate will treated as a direct contribution.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle C — Disposal of Contributions or Donations

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would require disposal of unused campaign funds. Former candidates are currently permitted to hold onto unused campaign funds indefinitely, including after they become registered lobbyists. This subtitle would require candidates to dispose of unused campaign funds no later than six years after the last election in which the candidate ran, or earlier, if the candidate becomes a registered lobbyist. After paying off debts, candidates could dispose of funds by returning money to contributors or donating them to a charitable organization or political party committee.

Related Legislation:

Back to top of title

Subtitle D — Recommendations to Ensure Filing of Reports Before Date of Election

Background:

The subtitle would direct the FEC to issue a report to Congress on how best to ensure that all political donations are disclosed before election day. Current reporting rules allow some donations to be disclosed after the election. In the 2018 election cycle, seventeen newly created super PACs spent over $29 million without having to report their donors until votes had already been cast.

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle E — Severability

This subtitle would provide that if any of the other provisions of Title VI are found unconstitutional, the remainder of the title would not be affected by the holding.

Back to top of title

Title VII — Ethical Standards

This title would, among other things, require new ethical standards for Supreme Court justices and presidential appointees, bolster enforcement of rules governing foreign agents operating in the United States, and strengthen lobbying disclosure rules.


Subtitle A — Supreme Court Ethics

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would require a code of ethics for the United States Supreme Court. The Court’s nine justices are the only U.S. judges — state or federal — not bound by a written code of ethical conduct. All other federal judges are subject to the official Code of Conduct for United States Judges, which requires them to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary and governs matters like recusal, financial disclosure, outside employment, partisan political engagement, and gifts. This subtitle would require the Judicial Conference of the United States to issue a code of ethics for the entire federal judiciary, including the justices of the Supreme Court, within one year of enactment.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle B — Foreign Agents Registration

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would expand enforcement and make other changes with respect to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). FARA requires U.S. agents working on behalf of a foreign government or other foreign principal to register with the attorney general and report political and lobbying activities. It also requires public communications on behalf of a foreign principal to be identified as such. A 2016 report by the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general found that FARA was significantly under-enforced. The Mueller Report documented a number of instances of individuals or entities who should have registered under FARA but failed to do so —including Kremlin-backed media organizations that produced content used in the Russian government’s disinformation campaign that targeted the 2016 election. In response, this subtitle would, among other things:

  • establish a dedicated FARA investigation and enforcement unit within DOJ;
  • authorize civil as well as criminal penalties for FARA violators, and bar foreign principals from paying civil penalties on behalf of agents who fail to register;
  • require agents registered under FARA to disclose all transactions of financial value between their foreign principal and federal or state officeholders; and
  • require all FARA registration statements to be made accessible online.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle C — Lobbying Disclosure Reform

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would increase federal lobbying disclosure requirements. The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (LDA) requires individuals and entities who spent at least 20 percent of their time lobbying federal officials to register as lobbyists and disclose their clients, issues on which they lobbied, and other information. But the Act defines lobbying to exclude many activities that can be critical to the provision of lobbying services, including paid strategic advice from consultants and advisors (who are often former officials themselves). This subtitle would address this perceived gap and make other changes to the LDA. It would, among other things:

  • amend the LDA’s definition of lobbying to include strategic advice and counseling in support of lobbying efforts, even if the individual providing these services does not have direct contact with a public official;
  • lower the LDA’s lobbyist registration threshold to 10 percent;
  • prohibit individuals from being compensated for lobbying on behalf of foreign countries that the president has identified as perpetrators of gross human rights violations; and
  • require federally registered lobbyists to disclose their status as lobbyists at the time of contact with high level executive or legislative branch officials.

Related Legislation:

Back to top of title

Subtitle D — Recusal of Presidential Appointees

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would require presidential appointees to recuse themselves from government matters to which the president or their spouse is a party. Executive branch officials (except for the president and vice president) are generally required to recuse from matters in which they have a personal financial interest distinct from that of the general public, but the requirement does not extend to matters involving the official who appointed and can remove them. President Trump’s continued ownership and control of businesses that have contracts with the government and White House interference in the Mueller investigation are among the recent episodes that have raised the prospect of presidents using their authority to exert pressure on their appointees for personal gain. In an effort to guard against this risk, this subtitle would:

  • require all presidential appointees to recuse themselves from matters (such as investigations, contract negotiations, permitting proceedings, etc.) to which the president, the president’s spouse, or an entity in which the president or their spouse have substantial interest is a party; and
  • direct that matters from which a presidential appointee is recused under this subtitle generally be handled by a career civil servant (except for instances where the recused appointee is part of a multi-member board whose other members are not required to recuse).

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle E — Clearinghouse on Lobbying Information

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle aims to ensure easy public access to registration statements filed under the LDA and FARA. It would direct the attorney general to create a database and make it accessible online in a searchable, sortable format.


Subtitle F — Severability

This subtitle would provide that if any of the other provisions of Title VII are found unconstitutional, the remainder of the title would not be affected by the holding.

Back to top of title

Title VIII — Ethics Reforms for the President, Vice President, and Federal Officers and Employees

This title would create a variety of new ethics requirements for executive branch officials, including the president and vice president, and bolster enforcement of ethics rules in the executive branch.


Subtitle A — Executive Branch Conflict of Interest

Background:

This subtitle would address conflicts of interest in the executive branch. It is common in Washington, D.C. for high-level officials to move back and forth between government and the private sector (the so-called “revolving door”). Ethics rules provide some constraint on official self-dealing, but often do not prevent senior government officials from overseeing matters likely to be of interest to past or future employers, leaving government to lobby their former colleagues (following a brief one-year cooling-off period), or even selling goods and services to the government (as some of President’s Trump’s businesses routinely do). This subtitle aims to close these gaps by tightening relevant ethics standards in several respects.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would, among other things:

  • require officials to recuse from matters in which they know or should have known that a former employer or client had a financial interest;
  • prohibit federal employees from awarding contracts to their former employers for two years after leaving a company, and from joining an industry they oversaw for two years after leaving government service;
  • increase the cooling-off period before senior officials can lobby their former colleagues from one to two years;
  • outlaw private sector compensation for government work, such as accelerated bonuses or other incentive payments to encourage employees to join the government;
  • direct the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) to issue guidance on ethical standards for unpaid agency employees; and
  • restrict federal funds from being spent at businesses owned or controlled by the president, vice president, cabinet members, or any of their families.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle B — Presidential Conflicts of Interest

Background:

This subtitle would require the president and vice president to divest from any personal financial holdings that could pose a conflict of interest with their official duties. The president and vice president are exempt from many federal ethics rules, including the prohibition on financial conflicts of interest. To avoid even an appearance of impropriety, past presidents going back to the 1960s limited their personal holdings to assets like cash and treasury bonds, or used a blind trust — a financial arrangement in which assets are kept hidden from beneficiaries and administered by an independent trustee. President Trump broke with this tradition when he became president, choosing to maintain effective ownership and control of his many businesses. According to ethics experts, this has created at least an appearance of numerous conflicts of interest, making it hard to discern where the public’s interests end and the president’s self-interest begins. This subtitle aims to address this concern and restore the prior longstanding practice. It also addresses legal defense funds for federal officials, which are currently exempt from most gift rules.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would, among other things:

  • require the president and vice president to limit personal holdings to assets that do not pose any potential conflict of interest, or use a blind trust;
  • require additional financial disclosures beyond those required for other federal officials from the president, vice president and their immediate family members;
  • prohibit the president, vice president, and cabinet members from entering into contracts with the United States government; and
  • set a $5,000 limit on donations to legal defense funds, and ban donations from a variety of sources, including lobbyists, foreign governments, and persons doing business with the official for whose benefit a fund was established or the agency where the official works.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle C — White House Ethics Transparency

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would require transparency for White House ethics waivers. Recent presidents, including President Trump, have issued executive orders prohibiting members of the executive branch from, among other things, working on matters involving previous clients or colleagues and serving as registered lobbyists for a set amount of time after leaving government service. However, the White House can issue waivers that exempt officials from these rules. This subtitle would require these waivers to be transmitted to OGE and direct OGE to make copies of the waivers available to the public online.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle D — Executive Branch Ethics Enforcement

Background:

The subtitle would strengthen ethics enforcement in the executive branch and make other changes. Under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, OGE is the primary agency responsible for administering executive branch ethics rules. OGE can promulgate regulations, but it has extremely limited investigative and enforcement power. Trump Administration officials have questioned whether the agency’s rules even apply to White House staff. OGE also exercises little direct control over agency ethics officials, who typically report to political appointees. And the agency lacks many of the hallmarks of a truly independent watchdog — most notably, there are no statutory limits on the president’s ability to remove OGE’s director before the end of their term. This subtitle would address these issues to bring OGE more in line with other independent watchdog agencies. It would also tighten certain other rules governing official travel for high-level appointees.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would, among other things:

  • limit the president’s authority to remove OGE’s director before the expiration of their term and empower the director to submit their own budget proposals to Congress;
  • vest OGE with new authority to, among other things:
    • conduct formal investigations of suspected ethics violations, including through the issuance of subpoenas; and
    • review and approve conflict of interest and similar determinations by agency ethics officials, as well as all waivers of conflict of interest rules;
  • Clarify that OGE ethics regulations and other guidance are binding on all federal employees, including White House staff;
  • prohibit the use of appropriated federal funds for senior government officials’ travel expenses in violation of specified regulations; and
  • require the secretary of defense to submit reports to the House Armed Services Committee every 90 days, detailing the direct and indirect costs of all presidential travel and senior executive travel on military aircraft.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle E — Conflicts From Political Fundraising

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would require more disclosure of political donations and fundraising by cabinet members and other senior appointees, which can give rise to conflicts of interest. It would require these officials to disclose all campaign contributions they make or solicit from others, including donations to “dark money” groups that otherwise keep their donors secret.

Related Legislation:

Back to top of title

Subtitle F — Transition Team Ethics

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

The subtitle would address ethics for presidential transition teams. Transition teams play a critical role in formulating policy for a new presidential administration, but their members are not federal employees and are not bound by federal ethics rules. This subtitle would require presidents-elect to adopt and enforce ethics rules for their transition teams, including rules prohibiting conflicts of interest. Certain provisions of this subtitle were included in the Presidential Transition Enhancement Act of 2019, which passed the House and the Senate and is currently awaiting the president’s signature.

Related Legislation:

Back to top of title

Subtitle G — Ethics Pledge For Senior Executive Branch Employees

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would require all senior executive branch appointees to take an ethics pledge. Every president since John F. Kennedy has issued an executive order imposing additional ethics requirements on high-level appointees beyond those required by federal statute. Presidents Clinton, Obama, and Trump each signed executive orders requiring officials to pledge to abide by certain standards, including not accepting lobbyist gifts and adhering to a two-year waiting period before lobbying themselves. This subtitle would codify the executive order used in the Obama administration.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle H — Travel on Private Aircraft by Senior Political Appointees

Background:

This subtitle would restrict travel on private aircraft by cabinet members and other senior appointees. In recent years, media investigations have revealed senior executive branch officials’ use of taxpayer funds for luxury private jet travel. This subtitle would prohibit the use of federal funds for such travel except where no commercial flights are available.

Related Legislation:


Subtitle I — Severability

This subtitle would provide that if any of the other provisions of Title VIII are found unconstitutional, the remainder of the title would not be affected by the holding.

Back to top of title

Title IX — Congressional Ethics Reform

This title addresses legislative branch ethics.


Subtitle A — Requiring Members of Congress to Reimburse Treasury for Amounts Paid as Settlements and Awards Under Congressional Accountability Act of 1995

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle addresses workplace discrimination claims against members of Congress. Between 1997 and 2017, the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (formerly the Office of Compliance) used more than $17 million of taxpayer funds to settle harassment claims raised by federal employees against members of Congress. In response, in 2018, Congress passed the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, which requires members of Congress to reimburse the Treasury for any awards or settlements paid in connection to claims of workplace harassment. This subtitle would expand the reimbursement requirement to include all employment discrimination claims.

Related Legislation:

Back to top of title

Subtitle B — Conflicts of Interests

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would strengthen conflict of interest rules for members of Congress. Like the president, members of Congress are exempt from many federal ethics laws, including the prohibition on financial conflicts of interest. Members of the House (but not the Senate) are also allowed to serve on for-profit corporate boards. To address such gaps, this subtitle would:

  • amend House rules to prohibit House members from serving on the boards of for-profit companies; and
  • bar members of the House and Senate and their staff from working to advance legislation with the primary purpose of furthering their personal financial interests or those of their immediate family.

Related Legislation:

Back to top of title

Subtitle C — Campaign Finance and Lobbying Disclosure

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would increase transparency requirements for campaign spending by registered lobbyists. Campaign spending is a common way for lobbyists to influence elected leaders. This subtitle aims to provide voters with more information about the interests that support particular candidates by:

  • requiring candidates to disclose whether a particular donor is a registered lobbyist in the candidate’s FEC filings; and
  • requiring those who make independent campaign expenditures to disclose if they are a registered lobbyist in their own FEC filings.

Related Legislation:

Back to top of title

Subtitle D — Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would enhance access to the thousands of reports to Congress that cabinet departments and bodies submit every year, by requiring the Government Publishing Office (GPO) to make them available on a searchable, public online portal. It would also limit the ability of agencies to alter or remove finished reports.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials:

Back to top of title

Subtitle E — Reports on Outside Compensation Earned by Congressional Employees

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would require reporting of outside compensation for congressional staff. Both public and private organizations are permitted to sponsor congressional fellows to work on the staff of members or committees, so long as they do not work on matters of direct or indirect benefit to the sponsoring organization. To help ensure compliance with this restriction and other ethical standards, this subtitle would require the supervisor for any employee who receives compensation from outside the federal government to submit a quarterly report to the House or Senate ethics committee detailing the source, total amount, and rate of the employee’s outside compensation.

Related Legislation:

Back to top of title

Subtitle F — Severability

This subtitle would provide that if any of the other provisions of Title IX are found unconstitutional, the remainder of the title would not be affected by the holding.

Back to top of title

Title X — Presidential and Vice Presidential Tax Transparency

Background & Summary of Key Changes:

This title would require sitting presidents, vice presidents, and major-party candidates for those offices to disclose their tax returns. From 1973 to 2016, every sitting president, vice president, and major party nominee for those offices disclosed at least some personal tax information to the public. While tax returns do not reveal everything about a candidate or officeholder’s personal finances, they can shed some light on potential conflicts of interest and confirm that the individual is paying their fair share. In 2016, President Trump became the first major party nominee since the 1970s to disclose no personal tax information, a practice he continued once elected. This title seeks to restore and codify the longstanding norm of tax return disclosure. It would, among other things, require disclosure of personal income tax returns and the returns of any businesses of which the filer is the sole or principal owner, going back ten years.

Related Legislation:

Related Research and Materials: