This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping voting rights act designed to combat nationwide state level voting restrictions proposed by Republican lawmakers in the wake of the 2020 election.
The For the People Act, more commonly known as H.R. 1, would expand voting rights, overhaul campaign finance rules, and reform redistricting laws.
Republicans have introduced measures in numerous states to restrict voting access, including narrowing the eligibility to vote by mail, banning ballot boxes, and in Georgia ending early voting on Sundays. The latter move is an attack on Black communities in Georgia who routinely vote on Sundays after church services and are largely responsible for flipping the state from red to blue and electing two senators that cemented the narrow Democratic majority.
“Everything is at stake. We must win this race, this fight,”said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “At the same time as we are gathering here to honor our democracy, across the country over 200 bills are being put together, provisions are being put forward to suppress the vote.”
According to a report from the New York Times, “It aims to impose new national requirements weakening restrictive state voter ID laws, mandate automatic voter registration, expand early and mail-in voting, make it harder to purge voter rolls and restore voting rights to former felons — changes that studies suggest would increase voter participation, especially by racial minorities.”
The bill also takes aim at the contentious Supreme Court Citizen’s United ruling, requiring super PACs and “dark money” groups to publicly disclose their donors and establishing a public fund to match small dollar donations.
The act also attempts to eradicate gerrymandering on both sides of the aisle, requiring states to use an independent commission made up of Democrats, Republicans, and independents and would require bipartisan approval of the redrawing of districts. It would require a public comment period and give citizens legal grounds to challenge badly drawn districts.
“Regardless of whether it’s a red state or a blue state, we are seeing significant manipulation in the legislative redrawing of districts,” CEO of the nonpartisan Voter Participation Center Tom Lopach said. “H.R. 1 presents an opportunity for everyone to get onboard with independent, unbiased and balanced redistricting that frankly is good government.”
The bill would also outlaw the rule that allows members of Congress to use taxpayer dollars to settle sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits and would legally require presidential candidates to release their tax returns.
The bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate, as it requires 60 votes to pass. So far, no Republican legislators have come forward in support of the bill.