Senators Introduce Law to Expand Voting Rights, Improve Voter Registration, Curb Gerrymandering, and Reform Money in Politics

March 27, 2019

Following a Similar Bill Passed by the House, the Senate’s For the People Act Includes Policies First Developed by the Brennan Center, Including Automatic Voter Registration and Small Donor Public Financing of Elections

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Today, Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the For the People Act in the U.S. Senate. The bill mirrors H.R. 1, which passed the House earlier this month, and includes proposals to modernize our voting systems, reform campaign finance laws, curb partisan gerrymandering, and restore voting rights to people with criminal convictions.

“We thank Senator Udall and dozens of cosponsors for introducing the For the People Act, a historic bill that would enhance voting rights, modernize our voting systems, reform campaign finance, curb partisan gerrymandering, and enforce government ethics,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. “These are the key reforms needed to revitalize our democracy. Voters support these reforms and, in a number of states, voted overwhelmingly to pass several of them this past November.”

Despite overwhelming support for these much-needed solutions, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not allow the bill to proceed in the Senate. That comes despite clear public support for many of the bill’s provisions as the country heads into the 2020 election.

“These reforms are not pie-in-the-sky,” said Weiser. “Similar recently-adopted reforms are successful and popular in multiple states and cities. After an unmistakable call for change from the public, and after the House passed a companion bill, it is simply unacceptable that Leader McConnell has pledged to keep this bill from getting a vote. Americans deserve to know where their representatives stand on these issues. The future health of our democracy depends on it.”

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. The bill would bring automatic, online, and same-day voter registration to eligible voters across the country.
  • Commitment to Restore the Voting Rights Act. The bill 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. The bill 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. The bill would restore voting rights to citizens with prior criminal convictions.
  • Redistricting Reform. The bill 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. The bill would close dark money loopholes, extend transparency to online political ads, and overhaul the broken Federal Election Commission.
  • Ethics Reform. The bill 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.


For more information on HR 1, click here.
Automatic Voter Registration
Small Donor Public Financing
Read a letter the Brennan Center sent earlier this month to members of Congress in support of H.R. 1.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that works to reform, revitalize – and when necessary, defend – our country's systems of democracy and justice.