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Annotated Guide to the For the People Act of 2021

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

Last Updated: March 18, 2021
Published: January 20, 2021
Voter casts ballot.
Michael Ciaglo/Getty

The For the People Act of 2021 (H.R. 1) passed the House of Repres­ent­at­ives on March 3, 2021. foot­note1_ylg1tye 1 This guide currently reflects the version of the bill that passed the House of Repres­ent­at­ives in March. The Senate version of the bill, which has been desig­nated S. 1 and tracks closely to the House’s language, was intro­duced on March 17, 2021. A previ­ous version of the bill passed the House of Repres­ent­at­ives in the 116th Congress on March 8, 2019, by a vote of 234 to 193 (the previ­ous Senate version, S. 949, was cosponsored by all 45 Senate Demo­crats and both Inde­pend­ents). 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. Most of these reforms would be imple­men­ted for the Novem­ber 2022 general elec­tion, with the excep­tion of some redis­trict­ing and public finan­cing changes that would go into effect later. This explainer provides details about each title and subtitle of the bill as passed by the House, as well as inform­a­tion about related legis­la­tion and pertin­ent Bren­nan Center research on the issues that the bill seeks to address.

Find­ings of General Consti­tu­tional Author­ity

Back­ground & Summary of Key Changes:

This section affirms Congress’ power to protect the right to vote, regu­late federal elec­tions, and defend the demo­cratic process in the United States. It notes that the Consti­tu­tion gives Congress broad author­ity to regu­late congres­sional elec­tions, a power that the Supreme Court has recently affirmed, as well as the power to guar­an­tee a repub­lican form of govern­ment in the states and the power to enforce the Four­teenth Amend­ment which protects the right to vote. It also emphas­izes that both the Four­teenth and Fifteenth Amend­ments give Congress the power to elim­in­ate racial discrim­in­a­tion in voting and the demo­cratic process, which persists in areas like voting restric­tions, redis­trict­ing, access to the polls, and felony disen­fran­chise­ment.

Stand­ards for Judi­cial Review

Back­ground and Summary of Key Changes:

This section provides that any chal­lenge to the consti­tu­tion­al­ity of any provi­sion of H.R. 1 shall be filed in or trans­ferred to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. That court, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and the Supreme Court are tasked to exped­ite such litig­a­tion to the greatest possible extent. Any member of the House of Repres­ent­at­ives or the Senate will have the right to inter­vene in any such case.

End Notes

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 Octo­ber 2020, online regis­tra­tion had been imple­men­ted in 40 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;
  • allow registered voters to update their voter regis­tra­tion inform­a­tion online; and
  • permit voters without DMV records to register online using elec­tronic copies of hand­writ­ten signa­tures, secure online signa­tures, or by provid­ing a signa­ture upon actu­ally request­ing a ballot. 
Related Legis­la­tion:
Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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Part 2 — Auto­matic Voter Regis­tra­tion

Back­ground:

This part would require states (includ­ing U.S. territ­or­ies) 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 2021, nineteen 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 (includ­ing U.S. territ­or­ies) 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:

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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 2020, 21 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:

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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:

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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 states to create voter privacy programs that allow victims of domestic viol­ence, stalk­ing, and sexual assault, among others, to have their person­ally iden­ti­fi­able inform­a­tion kept confid­en­tial, and to notify resid­ents of how and to whom state and local offi­cials share or sell voter regis­tra­tion inform­a­tion;
  • 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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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 2020 and 2018 saw record-high levels of 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. To qual­ify for fund­ing, such initi­at­ives would have to prior­it­ize schools with the highest number of students from vulner­able or low-income back­grounds. 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:

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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:

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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 they 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:

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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:

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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 end perman­ent disen­fran­chise­ment for all persons with crim­inal convic­tions. This section includes find­ings concern­ing 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. It also notes how the lack of a uniform national stand­ard for voting creates unfair dispar­it­ies on who can parti­cip­ate in federal elec­tions, and how current felony disen­fran­chise­ment laws dispro­por­tion­ately affect Black and Latino communit­ies.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would:

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

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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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 have cast 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:

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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:

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Subtitle H — Early Voting

Back­ground & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would extend early voting to all 50 states and estab­lish minimum stand­ards for its imple­ment­a­tion 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. 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;
  • require states to ensure, to the greatest extent prac­tic­able, that early voting loca­tions are within walk­ing distance of public trans­port­a­tion, are access­ible to rural voters, and are located on college campuses; and
  • require states to begin processing and scan­ning ballots cast during early voting for tabu­la­tion at least two weeks before the date of the elec­tion.

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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Subtitle I — Voting by Mail

Back­ground:

This subtitle would expand oppor­tun­it­ies to vote by mail in federal elec­tions. Voting by mail is a neces­sary option, as demon­strated by its crucial role during the Covid-19 pandemic despite a vari­ety of confus­ing and unne­ces­sary barri­ers in many states. A Pew Research Center survey indic­ates that 46 percent of people voted by mail during the Novem­ber 2020 elec­tion. 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 to vote by mail in federal elec­tions (no-excuse absentee voting);
  • require state or local elec­tion offi­cials to trans­mit mail-in ballot applic­a­tions to all registered voters at least 60 days before Elec­tion Day;
  • require states to allow voters to request mail-in ballots online or by phone;
  • prohibit states from requir­ing voters cast­ing a ballot by mail to provide iden­ti­fic­a­tion aside from a signa­ture, and require signa­ture discrep­ancy issues to be resolved by at least two trained elec­tion offi­cials affil­i­ated with differ­ent parties;
  • require states to make a good faith effort to notify voters of appar­ent signa­ture discrep­an­cies and provide an oppor­tun­ity to cure any issues within ten days;
  • prohibit notar­iz­a­tion or witness signa­tures require­ments for mail-in ballots in federal elec­tions;
  • require mail-in ballots and ballot applic­a­tions to be access­ible for voters with disab­il­it­ies;
  • require states to send a mail-in ballot to any voter who requests one at least five busi­ness days prior to Elec­tion Day, and to accept any mail-in ballot post­marked on or before Elec­tion Day if it arrives within ten days after the elec­tion;
  • direct the postal service to ensure that mail-in ballots are processed and cleared within one day of arriv­ing at a postal facil­ity;
  • prohibit the postal service from carry­ing out any oper­a­tional changes that would restrict the prompt and reli­able deliv­ery of voting mater­i­als within 120 days of a federal elec­tion;
  • require states to allow voters to return mail-in ballots to desig­nated drop-off loca­tions or to a polling place during early voting or on Elec­tion Day;
  • require states to permit voters to desig­nate someone else to return their completed and sealed mail-in ballot, as long as the person is not being compensated, and prohibit limits on the number of ballots any desig­nated person can return;
  • prevent states from prohib­it­ing any person from distrib­ut­ing mail-in ballot applic­a­tions, or from prohib­it­ing elec­tion offi­cials from distrib­ut­ing voter regis­tra­tion applic­a­tions;
  • require states to begin processing mail-in ballots at least 14 days prior to an elec­tion; 
  • require states to estab­lish track­ing programs for mail ballots and provide inform­a­tion on whether an indi­vidu­al’s vote was coun­ted and, if not, why not; and
  • require prepaid return envel­opes for mail-in ballots and ballot applic­a­tions.

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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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 take steps to ensure compli­ance with the Uniformed and Over­seas Citizen Absentee Voting Act mandate to send uniformed service and over­seas voters’ ballots at least 45 days before a federal elec­tion (provided a request was received at least 45 days before the elec­tion);
  • require states to use and pay for express deliv­ery and return of ballots if they fail to send ballots to uniformed and over­seas voters by that dead­line;
  • extend the guar­an­tee of state resid­ency for voting purposes to all spouses and depend­ents of absent service­mem­bers (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;
  • 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; and
  • require states to elec­tron­ic­ally send blank absentee ballots to qual­i­fied indi­vidu­als who request them, includ­ing voters with disab­il­it­ies and voters in areas impacted by natural disasters or public health emer­gen­cies within five days of an elec­tion (although they may not return their marked ballots elec­tron­ic­ally).

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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, voters living on tribal lands, 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, without being subjec­ted to intim­id­a­tion or decept­ive prac­tices;
  • require states to provide notice (in a way that accounts for local linguistic pref­er­ences) of polling place changes at least seven days before an elec­tion;
  • require states with voter iden­ti­fic­a­tion require­ments to permit voters who lack iden­ti­fic­a­tion 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);
  • allow Native Amer­ican tribes to desig­nate build­ings as ballot pickup and collec­tion loca­tions and require states to provide language access­ible mail-in ballots to people who live on tribal lands without requir­ing resid­en­tial addresses;
  • 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;
  • direct states to equit­ably alloc­ate voting systems, poll work­ers, and other elec­tion resources among polling places to ensure a fair and equit­able wait­ing time and that no indi­vidual will be required to wait longer than 30 minutes to cast a ballot;
  • require states to limit vari­ations in the number of hours of oper­a­tion for polling places within the state, includ­ing requir­ing that all polling places be open for at least four hours outside of regu­lar work­ing hours;
  • require states to provide a suffi­cient number of secure, access­ible, and widely distrib­uted drop-boxes for completed absentee ballots in federal elec­tions, start­ing at least 45 days before an elec­tion; 
  • require that these drop-boxes be access­ible for use by indi­vidu­als with disab­il­it­ies, by indi­vidu­als with limited English profi­ciency, and by unhoused indi­vidu­als;
  • prohibit states from restrict­ing curb­side voting; and
  • make Elec­tion Day a public holi­day.

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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Part 2 — Disaster and Emer­gency Contin­gency Plans

Back­ground & Summary of Key Changes:

This part directs state and local juris­dic­tions to develop contin­gency plans to enable eligible voters to parti­cip­ate in federal elec­tions during times of emer­gency, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. These plans must be updated every five years and must include meas­ures to protect the health and safety of voters and poll work­ers, as well as meas­ures to recruit addi­tional poll work­ers if required.

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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Part 3 — 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:

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Part 4 — Miscel­laneous Provi­sions

Back­ground & Summary of Key Changes

This part extends applic­a­tion of the NVRA and HAVA to Puerto Rico, Guam, Amer­ican Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and the North­ern Mari­ana Islands — all territ­or­ies of the United States. It also clari­fies that Title I does not (except where expli­citly provided) super­sede or restrict exist­ing voting laws such as the Voting Rights Act and the NVRA, and that state govern­ments are free to expand oppor­tun­it­ies to vote and register to vote in ways that go beyond the provi­sions of Title I. Finally, it clari­fies that states that do not require indi­vidu­als to register to vote do not have to comply with the voter regis­tra­tion provi­sions of Title I.

Related Legis­la­tion:

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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.

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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. In the last Congress, the House fulfilled the commit­ment made in this subtitle (after build­ing an extens­ive legis­lat­ive record) on Decem­ber 6, 2019 by passing H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advance­ment Act of 2019. Work to pass an updated version of this bill — the John Lewis Voting Rights Advance­ment Act — is ongo­ing in the current Congress.

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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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 and 2020 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:

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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 compris­ing 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:

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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:

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Subtitle E — Redis­trict­ing Reform

Back­ground:

This subtitle estab­lishes new require­ments for congres­sional redis­trict­ing, includ­ing uniform rules for draw­ing districts, a ban on 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, two years ago it held that partisan gerry­man­der­ing was a “polit­ical ques­tion” and declined to inter­vene. But momentum for reform contin­ues to build. In the past three years alone, five states passed meas­ures creat­ing inde­pend­ent commis­sions or other­wise signi­fic­antly over­haul­ing congres­sional redis­trict­ing, all by bipar­tisan margins. A grow­ing number of states now place some signi­fic­ant constraint on partisan gerry­man­der­ing for congres­sional and/or state legis­lat­ive redis­trict­ing. The provi­sions in this subsec­tion are modeled on these state-level reforms. Depend­ing on when the Senate passes the For the People Act, some of these provi­sions might not take effect until the 2031 round of redis­trict­ing, but others could be imple­men­ted imme­di­ately.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would, among other things:

  • ban partisan gerry­man­der­ing by prohib­it­ing adop­tion of any map that has the intent or effect of “unduly favor­ing or disfa­vor­ing” one polit­ical party over another;
  • estab­lish uniform rules that every state would have to follow when draw­ing congres­sional districts, includ­ing enhanced protec­tions to make sure the polit­ical effect­ive­ness of communit­ies of color is not diluted and a mandate to keep towns, neigh­bor­hoods, and other geographic areas where people have shared iden­tit­ies and common interests together in one district, where possible;
  • require that congres­sional redis­trict­ing be trans­par­ent and parti­cip­at­ory, with open meet­ings and public hear­ings, oppor­tun­it­ies for the public to review and comment on proposed maps, and public access to under­ly­ing data and soft­ware so that members of the public can analyze maps and/or create and propose altern­at­ives;
  • give voters an exped­ited right of action to redress viol­a­tions of this subtitle, with added provi­sions to ensure that, if neces­sary, blatant viol­a­tions can be correc­ted on an interim basis through a tempor­ary redis­trict­ing plan; and
  • require that states carry out congres­sional redis­trict­ing using inde­pend­ent commis­sions that:
    • prohibit current and recent lawmakers, staff, and lobby­ists and others with conflicts of interest from serving on the commis­sion;
    • include an equal number of Repub­lican, Demo­cratic, and unaf­fili­ated or third-party members selec­ted through a rigor­ous screen­ing process, with voting rules designed to ensure that maps can pass only with support from all three groups; and
    • 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.

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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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; and
    • publish a public notice within 48 hours of a purge being conduc­ted

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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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.

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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:

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Subtitle I — Find­ings Relat­ing to Youth Voting

This subtitle would make find­ings in support of further protec­tions for the rights guar­an­teed by the Twenty-Sixth Amend­ment, which sets the federal voting age as 18 and prohib­its the deny­ing or abridging of that right to vote “by the United States or by any state on account of age.” It finds that youth voter suppres­sion is a grow­ing prob­lem in the United States, noting recent court decisions hold­ing that certain state policies viol­ated the Twenty-Sixth Amend­ment, and calls on Congress to take further steps to defend the right to vote.

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Subtitle J — 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.

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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 provided some addi­tional fund­ing in the FY2020 budget, more still needs to be done.

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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 and the iden­tit­ies of any entity or indi­vidual with an owner­ship interest above five percent in the vendor 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:
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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:
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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:
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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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 2024 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:

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Subtitle I — Study and Report on Bots

Back­ground & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would direct the EAC to estab­lish a task force of experts to conduct a study on the impact of auto­mated social media accounts (known as “bots”) on public discourse and Amer­ican elec­tions.

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Subtitle J — 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.

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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 — Estab­lish­ing Duty To Report Foreign Elec­tion Inter­fer­ence

Back­ground:

This subtitle would require campaigns and other polit­ical commit­tees to report contacts with foreign govern­ments that involve offers of unlaw­ful campaign contri­bu­tions or other substan­tial collab­or­a­tion to influ­ence U.S. elec­tions. As docu­mented in the Mueller Report, during the 2016 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, Pres­id­ent Trump’s campaign had multiple contacts with agents purportedly work­ing on behalf of foreign govern­ments, who in some cases claimed to possess oppos­i­tion research that could help the campaign, and failed to disclose these meet­ings to law enforce­ment.

Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would, among other things:

  • require polit­ical commit­tees to notify the FBI and the Federal Elec­tion Commis­sion (FEC) of all contacts with any repres­ent­at­ive of a foreign govern­ment, party, or other entity that involve offers to make a contri­bu­tion or substan­tially collab­or­ate to influ­ence a U.S. elec­tion, subject to certain exemp­tions (includ­ing for offi­cial govern­ment busi­ness);
  • mandate that polit­ical commit­tees estab­lish certain internal report­ing and compli­ance mech­an­isms to ensure accur­ate and timely report­ing; and
  • direct the FBI to submit an annual report to Congress concern­ing noti­fic­a­tions of report­able foreign contacts made by polit­ical commit­tees.

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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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. The version included in this pack­age would also extend disclos­ure require­ments to ads seek­ing to influ­ence federal judi­cial nomin­a­tions (more than $30 million was spent on ads related to the last two Supreme Court nomin­a­tions alone).

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Part 1 — Clos­ing Loop­holes Allow­ing Spend­ing by Foreign Nation­als in Elec­tions

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;
  • 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;
  • prohibit the use of a corpor­a­tion or other entity to conceal any such activ­ity by a foreign national; and
  • require the FEC to conduct and publish an audit of illi­cit foreign spend­ing on U.S. elec­tions, includ­ing whether any such foreign spend­ing attemp­ted to depress turnout among rural communit­ies, African Amer­ican or other minor­ity communit­ies, or milit­ary and veteran communit­ies.
Related Legis­la­tion:
Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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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

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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.

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Part 4 — Disclos­ure of Contri­bu­tions to Polit­ical Commit­tees Imme­di­ately Prior to Elec­tion

This part would require polit­ical commit­tees to disclose to the FEC before Elec­tion Day any large contri­bu­tions of $5000 or more they receive in the 20 days prior to Elec­tion Day.

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Subtitle C — Strength­en­ing Over­sight of Online Polit­ical Advert­ising

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;
  • 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; and
  • direct the FEC to commis­sion an inde­pend­ent study on inter­net media liter­acy in the United States.

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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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:

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Subtitle E — Deter­ring Foreign Inter­fer­ence in Elec­tions

Back­ground & Summary of Key Changes:

This subtitle would create several new safe­guards against foreign inter­fer­ence in U.S. campaigns, includ­ing by address­ing vari­ous incid­ents docu­mented in the Mueller Report. It would, among other things:

  • estab­lish that a campaign or polit­ical commit­tee provid­ing or offer­ing to provide nonpub­lic campaign mater­ial to a covered foreign national qual­i­fies as soli­cit­ing a contri­bu­tion or dona­tion from a foreign national;
  • clarify that a formal agree­ment or collab­or­a­tion is not neces­sary for a campaign expendit­ure to be considered to have been made in cooper­a­tion with a foreign national;
  • prohibit know­ingly provid­ing substan­tial assist­ance to a foreign national in making a campaign contri­bu­tion;
  • require the FEC to notify the state in ques­tion if the FEC determ­ines that a foreign national has initi­ated or attemp­ted to initi­ate a disin­form­a­tion campaign target­ing elec­tions in that state; and
  • prohibit the distri­bu­tion of inten­tion­ally manip­u­lated but authen­tic-seem­ing audio or visual media (so-called “Deep­fakes”) within 60 days of an elec­tion with the intent to injure a candid­ate’s repu­ta­tion or deceive voters.

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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Subtitle F — 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:

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Subtitle G — 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 (except those who are foreign nation­als prohib­ited from campaign spend­ing) 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:

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Subtitle H — 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:

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Subtitle I — 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:

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Subtitle J — Miscel­laneous Provi­sions

This subtitle would estab­lish that each provi­sion of Title IV will take effect on the date specified by the bill even if the FEC, the Attor­ney General, or any other person fails to promul­gate regu­la­tions to imple­ment any such provi­sion. It would also 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.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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 small 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;
  • specify that no taxpayer dollars may be used to support the Free­dom From Influ­ence Fund;
  • 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; 
  • estab­lish civil penal­ties for parti­cip­at­ing candid­ates who viol­ate the terms of the program; and
  • require the Comp­troller General to review the congres­sional small donor match­ing system after each elec­tion, includ­ing eligib­il­ity require­ments, payment amounts, and the extent to which the program increases oppor­tun­it­ies for candid­ates of diverse back­grounds.
Related Legis­la­tion:
Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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;
  • extend the stat­ute of limit­a­tions for certain campaign finance viol­a­tions; and
  • provide for stronger judi­cial review of FEC enforce­ment decisions, includ­ing decisions to dismiss alleged viol­a­tions without invest­ig­a­tion.

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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;
  • require all FARA regis­tra­tion state­ments to be made access­ible online; and
  • require agents registered under FARA to include disclos­ure state­ments when post­ing mater­i­als on behalf of a foreign prin­cipal to an online plat­form.

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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, as well as issue a report to Congress. This require­ment would also apply retro­act­ively to waivers issued since Janu­ary 2017.

Related Legis­la­tion:

Related Research and Mater­i­als:

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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:

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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:

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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 and requir­ing trans­ition team members to disclose their recent employ­ers and sources of compens­a­tion.

Related Legis­la­tion:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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: