WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives passed a package of democracy reform legislation (H.R. 1) on Wednesday night that features important proposals to improve the health of America’s democracy. The bill would increase participation in the voting process and disclosures on secret political spending as well as reform redistricting practices. It would also create a small donor empowerment system for federal elections, which would help combat the overwhelming influence of big money in politics.
The House legislation folds together a number of long-standing reform efforts, including the Automatic Voter Registration Act, Voter Empowerment Act, Redistricting Reform Act, the DISCLOSE Act, the Honest Ads Act and the Government by the People Act. The bill, authored by Rep. John Sarbanes, would amplify the voices of small donors by matching small contributions with limited public funds at a six-to-one rate for U.S. House candidates.
U.S. PIRG Democracy Campaign Director Joe Ready issued the following statement:
“Indisputably, 2020 was a test of our democracy that showed just how fragile our system can be. With that in mind, now is exactly the time for Congress to strengthen our democratic rules and processes.
“This legislation addresses many of the weaknesses in our electoral mechanisms, which were exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would provide voters with more options for how and when to cast their vote and would build a broad resilience into the system against things like natural disasters and pandemics. At the same time, it would also deliver smaller, but equally important, protections to the individual voter for whom a common cold or flat tire can result in the same sort of barrier to voting as arose in the pandemic.
“Beyond that, smart policies baked into the bill, like automatic voter registration, would help bring our voting systems into the 21st century. Between the IRS and the social security administration, our government has all the information it needs to ascertain a person’s voter eligibility. It’s common sense to use that information to make registering to vote and maintaining voter rolls easy, accurate and automatic.
“We know voters from both parties want to enact solutions that put everyday people in the driver’s seat of our democracy. While there is much more work to do, this bill is a step toward rebuilding a responsive, transparent and honest government where every American can participate and have an equal voice.”