House Passes Historic Legislation to Expand Voting Rights, Improve Voter Registration, Curb Gerrymandering, and Reform Money in Politics

March 8, 2019

H.R. 1, the For the People Act, Includes Policies First Developed by the Brennan Center, Including Automatic Voter Registration and Small Donor Public Financing of Elections

MEDIA CONTACT: Derek Rosenfeld, derek.rosenfeld@nyu.edu, 646-292-8381

Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2019. This historic legislative package includes a sweeping set of much-needed solutions to restore faith in American democracy, including proposals to automatically register voters, reform campaign finance laws, and curb partisan gerrymandering.

“We’ve reached a tipping point in the fight to expand voting rights and repair our political system,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. “H.R. 1 is a direct response to the demands from voters last November for a democracy that works for all Americans. It includes the key reforms needed to revitalize our democracy—reforms that are popular and proven to work. This is a very big deal. It is the first time in decades that Congress has made real democracy reform a central priority.”

The Brennan Center has long advocated for, and in some cases helped develop, many of the reforms in the bill — including automatic voter registration and small donor public financing

Here are several of the bill’s key provisions:

  • Modernizing Voter Registration. H.R. 1 would bring automatic, online, and same-day voter registration to eligible voters across the country.
  • Commitment to Restore the Voting Rights Act. H.R. 1 affirms Congress’s commitment to restore the full protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights law that was hobbled by the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County decision.
  • Small Donor Public Financing. H.R. 1 would create a small donor matching system for Congressional races and revamp the matching system for presidential contests, using public funds to amplify small private donations.
  • Voting Rights Restoration. H.R.1 would restore voting rights to citizens with past criminal convictions.
  • Redistricting Reform. H.R. 1 would ban partisan gerrymandering, establish fair redistricting criteria, ensuring that states draw congressional districts using independent redistricting commissions, and mandate greater transparency in the process.
  • Other Campaign Finance Reforms. H.R. 1 would close dark money loopholes, extend transparency to online political ads, and overhaul the broken Federal Election Commission.
  • Ethics Reform. H.R. 1 would shore up government ethics by strengthening enforcement of ethics rules in the executive branch and requiring disclosure of presidential tax returns, among other things.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where a companion version is expected to be introduced next week, though Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has so far said he will not bring it up for a vote.

“H.R. 1 deserves a vote in the Senate,” said Daniel I. Weiner, senior counsel for the Brennan Center’s democracy program. “Americans of all political persuasions overwhelmingly support these changes, which build on reforms that are working in many states and have proved both successful and popular. Leader McConnell has no excuse to keep the full Senate from weighing in. Over the long-term, there will be a political price to obstructing a democratic overhaul the American people so clearly want.”

The Brennan Center has also been involved in democracy reform in New York State, including the push for small donor public financing. Lawmakers in New York are poised to become the first in the nation to pass a statewide small donor matching system designed to amplify the voice of voters over powerful special interests.

To schedule an interview with one of the Brennan Center’s experts, please contact Derek Rosenfeld: derek.rosenfeld@nyu.edu, 646-292-8381. We have a number of experts available:

  • Wendy Weiser, Director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program
  • Daniel I. Weiner, Senior Counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and expert on money in politics
  • Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center
  • Spencer Boyer, Director of the Brennan Center’s Washington, D.C. office

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