HR 1, the For the People Act, has been re-introduced in the new Congress and offers important remedies to many serious distortions in the American electoral system: barriers to voting, gerrymandering, and the disproportionate power of major donors. This bill offers Congress a way to advance the goal of all eligible voters having equal access and equal voice. It addresses many state laws and processes (such as partisan gerrymandering) that disproportionately burden and disenfranchise people of color and the poor.
It is especially timely because the Supreme Court declined in 2019 to set a definition of what constitutes partisan gerrymandering, and because many state legislatures are now debating bills that would create new hurdles to registration and voting in the wake of the historic turnout including early and absentee voting in 2020 that led to razor-thin margins in battleground states.
The Brennan Center offers an annotated analysis of the key provisions of the bill. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/policy-solutions/annotated-guide-people-act-2021. We recommend you consult this in deciding how to advocate with your member of Congress and Senators.
Read more in this summary of HR 1:
Title I would modernize voter registration and require states to offer standard options for all federal elections, such as online registration. It would require and set standards for early voting in all states. It also would guarantee voting rights to ex-felons who have completed their sentence, and prohibit voter intimidation. The title would also require paper ballots to provide a permanent hard copy record as a protection against hacking into digital voting systems. Paper ballots marked by hand also help prevent long lines when machines malfunction.
Title II would restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, eroded by the Supreme Court in Shelby v Holder (2013). Subtitle E would curb partisan gerrymandering by setting uniform rules for drawing districts and requiring states to use a non-partisan commission for redistricting. It would create protections against improper purges of voters which have increased since Shelby v Holder ended key federal oversight in the Civil Rights Act.
Title III would enhance election security against foreign interference and authorize grants for election security upgrades.
Title IV aims to improve campaign finance transparency, deter corruption, and prevent foreign money by influencing U.S. electons.
Title V counters the harmful effects of Citizens United v. FEC, which have given wealthy special interests unlimited scope to influence U.S. elections, drowning out the preferences of ordinary Americans. It calls for states and Congress to distinguish between natural persons and artificial entities like corporations or unions.
Title VI provides campaign finance oversight to counter corruption, restoring the severely weakened enforcement capacity of the Federal Election Commission.
Titles VII and VIII provides ethics requirements for the Supreme Court Justices and the Executive Branch including the President, Vice President, and presidential appointees, to prevent conflicts of interest and require transparency.
Advocacy briefings are compiled by Ariel Miller, a member of Ascension & Holy Trinity, Wyoming, and a member of the diocesan Becoming Beloved Community Leadership Team.