|Rep John Sarbanes of Maryland introduces his voting rights and ethics bill.|
The House of Representatives put forth and passed HR 1, the For the People Act of 2019. It is a voting rights and ethics act designed to eradicate and prevent corruption in elections introduced by Rep John Sarbanes of Md. Of course, not a single Republican gave it a thumbs up vote. Do you want to know why? So do I.
Here is a summary of the bill (courtesy of Vox
What this anti-corruption bill aims to do
HR 1 will be formally introduced later today by Pelosi, Sarbanes, and chairs of the committees of jurisdiction for the bill: Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Jerry Nadler (D-NY).
The bill will make its way through their committees in the coming weeks; Sarbanes hopes to have a final floor vote done later this month or early February.
The bill covers three main planks: campaign finance reform, strengthening the government’s ethics laws, and expanding voting rights. Here’s the important part of each section.
- Public financing of campaigns, powered by small donations. Under Sarbanes’s vision, the federal government would provide a voluntary 6-1 match for candidates for president and Congress, which means for every dollar a candidate raises from small donations, the federal government would match it six times over. The maximum small donation that could be matched would be capped at $200. “If you give $100 to a candidate that’s meeting those requirements, then that candidate would get another $600 coming in behind them,” Sarbanes told Vox this summer. “The evidence and the modeling is that most candidates can do as well or better in terms of the dollars they raise if they step into this new system.”
- Support for a constitutional amendment to end Citizens United.
- Passing the DISCLOSE Act, pushed by Rep. David Cicilline and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, both Democrats from Rhode Island. This would require Super PACs and “dark money” political organizations to make their donors public.
- Passing the Honest Ads Act, championed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Mark Warner (VA) and introduced by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) in the House, which would require Facebook and Twitter to disclose the source of money for political ads on their platforms and share how much money was spent.
- Disclosing any political spending by government contractors and slowing the flow of foreign money into the elections by targeting shell companies.
- Restructuring the Federal Election Commission to have five commissioners instead of the current four, in order to break political gridlock.
- Prohibiting any coordination between candidates and Super PACs.
- Requiring the president and vice president to disclose 10 years of his or her tax returns. Candidates for president and vice president must also do the same.
- Stopping members of Congress from using taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment or discrimination cases.
- Giving the Office of Government Ethics the power to do more oversight and enforcement and put in stricter lobbying registration requirements. These include more oversight into foreign agents by the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
- Creating a new ethical code for the US Supreme Court, ensuring all branches of government are impacted by the new law.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already stated that he won't give this bill even a hearing in the senate. That means, not only will they not vote on this bill, they won't look at it, try to amend it to suit them, or anything.
- Creating new national automatic voter registration that asks voters to opt out, rather than opt in, ensuring more people will be signed up to vote. Early voting, same-day voter registration, and online voter registration would also be promoted.
- Making Election Day a holiday for federal employees and encouraging private sector businesses to do the same, requiring poll workers to provide a week’s notice if poll sites are changed, and making colleges and universities a voter registration agency (in addition to the DMV, etc), among other updates.
- Ending partisan gerrymandering in federal elections and prohibiting voter roll purging. The bill would stop the use of non-forwardable mail being used as a way to remove voters from rolls.
- Beefing up elections security, including requiring the director of national intelligence to do regular checks on foreign threats.
- Recruiting and training more poll workers ahead of the 2020 election to cut down on long lines at the polls.
If you are concerned that your Congress isn't concerned about fair and ethical elections for ALL candidates and making it easy and safe for Americans to participate in the elections, you should be.