This House of Representatives bill, HR 1, marks the first time in decades that either of the two major parties has put democracy reform at the top of its priority list. The League of Women Voters (LWV) has tried to educate themselves and the public to understand this comprehensive democracy reform bill. The bill itself is hundreds of pages long. Here is a summary of key elements:
1- Automatic voter registration: AVR puts citizens on the rolls when they visit the department of motor vehicles or other state agencies. Same-Day Registration (SDR) allows eligible voters to register at the polls on Election Day, making it less likely that voters will be disenfranchised by last-minute registration problems.
2- Restore the protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act: According to The Brennan Center for Justice web page in a 2014 poll, 81 percent of voters support the VRA, and 69 percent support restoring it, including 57 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of Democrats.
3- Nationwide Early Voting: Begin early in-person voting a full two weeks before Election Day, provide weekend hours, provide extended hours outside standard business hours, allow use of both private and public facilities and distribute early voting places fairly and equitably.
4- Gerrymandering Reform: In the past, voter maps are drawn by state lawmakers to the advantage of one political party. Independent redistricting commissions would take redistricting out of the hands of politicians or at least reduce their influence.
5- Small donor public financing: Affluent Americans may have substantially differing views on issues such as the minimum wage, the deficit and job creation. Federal public financing systems could match small contributions with public funds, thereby lessening candidates’ reliance on big money donors, while also expanding and diversifying the donor pool. This would hopefully overturn the Citizen’s United vs. Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruling. In 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that political spending is a form of free speech that is protected under the First Amendment. The controversial 5-4 decision effectively opened the door for corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money to support their chosen candidates. This led to Super PAC’s (Political Action Committees) claiming they were ‘social welfare’ programs and did not have to disclose donor’s identities, also known as ‘Dark Money.’
• Close loopholes in federal campaign disclosure rules,
• Curb foreign funds in U.S. elections,
• Fix the Federal Election Commission,
• Replace paperless voting machines,
• Disclosure of presidential and vice-presidential tax returns,
• Tightening restrictions on congressional conflicts of interest, and
• Requiring the Supreme Court to adopt a code of ethics.
Passing the H.R.1 bill would help ensure that all Americans can participate in politics on a more equal footing, transforming our democracy for the better.
LWV is nonpartisan and is always working on vital issues of concern to our members and to our communities. Membership to the Great Bend League of Women Voters is open to men and women. To join, please, contact our membership chair, Bev Komarek, at 620-791-7538.