Democrats announced this week that their first legislative vote will be a sweeping voting reform act, H.R. 1, that Democrats believe will increase public trust in the government and strengthen democratic institutions. The legislation aims to reform redistricting, create automatic voter registration, revive the Voting Rights Act, overturn the Citizen’s United ruling, and expand the conflict of interests ban to include presidents. Representative Sarbanes commented that, “The path back to having the public trust government and politics is a long one, but we have to start someplace.”
The legislation would create the first nationwide automatic voter registration initiative as well as reinstate pieces of the Voting Rights Act that were weakened by a 2013 Supreme Court decision. Democrats believe that overturning Citizen United would allow for the creation and expansion of mandates regarding the disclosure of outside money spent on elections. The bill also calls for the creation of a publicly financed match for small contributions to candidates and mandates that redistricting power is given to independent commissions, not state legislatures.
Beyond voting reform, the legislation proposes expanding ethics rules to include the president, specifically by banning conflict of interests and requiring presidential nominees to release their tax returns.
When the Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives in January, H.R. 1 will be the first legislative vote. However, the Republican controlled Senate is unlikely to pass the bill and President Trump is unlikely to sign it. Republicans and Conservative groups already oppose the legislation, calling it unconstitutional and a threat to the First Amendment. Therefore, passing the bill in the House will just be the first step and will be seen as a symbolic gesture to the American people that the Democrats “hear [their] message loud and clear,” according to Representative Sarbanes.
Media Resources: NPR 11/12/2018