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Senate Democrats are working to ensure the passage of H.R. 1/S.1, a sweeping set of reforms to protect voters’ rights, increase election security, eliminate gerrymandering, and more. 

On March 3, 2021, the House passed the For the People Act, a set of reforms seeking to expand Americans’ access to the ballot box and fight corruption.

When Republicans controlled the Senate, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the bill “terrible,” and refused to give it any floor time. But now, with a 50-50 Senate, and Senate Democrats in control, it has a better chance of making it to President Joe Biden‘s desk. 

A Weighty Goal

H.R. 1/S.1, as the For the People Act is also called, weighs in at close to 800 pages. However, it can be broken down into several main areas. Here is some of what the legislation proposes to do:

  • Provide sweeping reforms to election administration and security
  • Redistrict
  • Protect campaign finance

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Expanding the Voting Pool 

More than 165 bills that would restrict voting have been introduced this year in 43 states, the Brennan Center for Justice, a bipartisan law and public policy institute, recently reported.  

This includes Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, wants to make it harder to vote by mail after a record number of the state’s residents utilized the voting method during the 2020 presidential election. Former president and staunch DeSantis ally Donald Trump consistently attacked mail voting as fraudulent, a lie that was widely disproven. However, Republicans continue to target the system and DeSantis is no exception as he pushes to ban mailing out ballots to voters who haven’t requested one, and to tighten the rules so that requests for a ballot have to be made every election year.

To combat this onslaught, the For the People Act seeks to increase voter turnout by allowing same-day registration, expanding early voting, lessening identification requirements, and requiring states to set up automatic registration for federal elections for eligible voters. One provision in the bill would restrict voter-roll purges by states that disproportionately affect minority and low-income residents.

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Redrawing Congressional Districts

The legislation would also reduce gerrymandering, which occurs when a political group tries to change a voting district to create a result that helps them or that hurts the group who opposes them. The bill would require states to establish a bipartisan independent commission to redraw their congressional districts every 10 years, in order to stop districts from being disproportionately drawn and in favor of either party.

Ensuring Voting Rights

One provision in the bill would restrict voter-roll purges by states that affect minority and low-income residents disproportionally. Another of the bill’s provisions calls for Congress to improve voting protections that civil rights groups say have been eroded. In addition to make casting a ballot take 30 minutes or less, the legislation would also limit states from purging nonactive voters from their voter rolls without first verifying that they are ineligible from voting in that state.

Overcoming the Influence of “Big Money”

H.R.1/S.1 would also amplify the power of small political donors, allowing them to match and possibly overcome the influence of big money, as well as create a code of ethics for the nine Supreme Court justices, something which has never existed in US history.

Additionally, if the legislation becomes law, presidents, vice presidents, and candidates for the White House will be required to release their annual tax filings, unlike Trump, who never released his tax returns while in office and fought to keep his tax returns under wraps. 

In a nutshell: The For the People Act would change the basic structure of US politics, creating a new infrastructure that would bolster the influence of “we, the people.”

To ensure passage of the For the People Act, contact your members of Congress and tell them to support H.R. / S. 1.