First Bill of New Congress Focuses on Reforming American Democracy
Brennan Center Praises H.R. 1’s Comprehensive Approach to Voting, Redistricting, Money in Politics, and Ethics
Contact: Alexandra Ringe, firstname.lastname@example.org, 646-925-8744
Washington, D.C. – The incoming leadership of the House of Representatives, along with Representative John Sarbanes (D-Md.), introduced H.R. 1, the first bill of the new session, yesterday. Titled the For the People Act, this omnibus legislation contains comprehensive democracy reforms targeting voting, campaign finance, ethics rules, and redistricting. The Brennan Center has long advocated for, and in some cases helped develop, many of the reforms in the bill, especially automatic voter registration and small donor public financing.
Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, commented:
“It's a truly big deal for the House to make sweeping democracy reform its first legislative priority. Neither party has done that in decades. Encouragingly, these are not placebo policies. They are bold, innovative approaches that would transform politics and the way government works.
“This start of the new Congress reflects an unmistakable call for change from the electorate. A genuine democracy movement made itself heard across the country in November’s ballot measures and candidate commitments. This bill marks the moment when the health of our democracy moved to the center of our politics, where it belongs.”
Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, said the following:
“This is a historic bill. For the first time in decades, a major political party and a House of Congress have put democracy reform at the top of the agenda. H.R. 1 offers thorough and well-tested solutions to problems that have blocked millions of Americans from participating in our government. This omnibus legislation would modernize voting through automatic voter registration, early voting, same-day registration, and improved election technology and security. It would also strengthen small donors’ influence in campaigns and lawmaking, curb partisan gerrymandering, and improve enforcement of ethics rules. H.R. 1 deserves the full support of every member of Congress.”
The Brennan Center’s research and analysis on the components of H.R. 1:
- Nationwide voting reforms
- Automatic voter registration (eligible voters are registered when they provide information to the government at the DMV or another social service agency unless they opt out)
- Same-day voter registration
- Commitment to restore the full protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act
- Early voting (minimum of two weeks before election day)
- Election security measures such as requiring states to replace paperless voting machines
- Federal campaign finance reforms
- Small-donor matching system providing qualified presidential and congressional candidates with $6 in public funds for every $1 raised from small donors
- Closing loopholes in federal campaign disclosure rules
- Limits on foreign funds in U.S. elections
- Fixes to the Federal Election Commission, which regulates campaign finance
- Gerrymandering reforms, including the establishment of independent redistricting commissions
- Reforms to bolster ethics rules, such as mandatory disclosure of presidential tax returns and a requirement that the Supreme Court adopt a code of ethics
For a more detailed description of these policies, see https://www.brennancenter.org/blog/historic-bill-strengthen-democracy-introduced-congress. The bill's text is available here.