The For the People Act is a comprehensive and appropriately aggressive set of reforms that would revitalize and improve our democracy.
Voting Rights – The FTPA aims to expand and protect this most fundamental right and bring voting into the 21st century:
- Modernize Voter Registration – move to electronic systems pen & paper.
- Automatic Voter Registration – every eligible citizen who interacts with designated government agencies, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”), a public university, or a social service agency, is automatically registered to vote, unless they decline registration.
- Same-Day and Online Registration – boost voter participation by establishing same- day and online registration.
- Protect Against Flawed Purges – creates strong protections against improper purges/puts new guardrails on the use of interstate databases; prohibits election officials from relying on a citizen’s failure to vote in an election as reason to remove them from the rolls; requires election officials to provide timely notice to removed voters, as well as an opportunity to remedy their registration before an election.
- Restore the Voting Rights Act -The FTPA contains an express commitment to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.
- Restore Voting Rights to People with Prior Convictions – The FTPA adopts a simple and fair rule: if you are out of prison and living in the community, you get to vote in federal elections; also requires states to provide written notice to individuals with criminal convictions when their voting rights are restored.
- Strengthen Mail Voting Systems The FTPA would also create a baseline standard for access to mail voting in federal elections.
- Institute Nationwide Early Voting – alleviate problems of long lines & inability to get to polls by guaranteeing a minimum two-week period for early voting in federal elections.
- Protect Against Deceptive Practices – The FTPA increases criminal penalties for false or misleading statements, as well as intimidation, aimed at impeding or preventing a person from voting or registering to Second, it empowers citizens to go to court to stop voter deception. Third, it blunts the effect of deceptive information by requiring designated government officials to disseminate accurate, corrective information to voters.
Campaign Finance – We need to overhaul the role of money in politics. We should pass reforms to counteract the worst effects of Citizens United and amplify the voices of everyday Americans in our campaigns.
- Small Donor Public Financing – To truly counteract the worst effects of Citizens United, we need to create a small-donor public financing system for federal This reform will give candidates a viable option to fund their campaigns without relying on wealthy campaign donors and enable working Americans to increase the financial support they can provide to candidates who champion their policy preferences. The FTPA addresses these problems head-on by amplifying the voices of the everyday voters, primarily through small donor matching. In addition to small donor matching, the FTPA also creates a pilot program to provide eligible donors with $25 in “My Voice Vouchers” to give to congressional candidates of their choice in increments of $5.
- The FTPA revamps the presidential public financing system which currently provides matching funds to primary candidates and block grants to general election nominees. The FTPA addresses this problem by increasing the primary match to a six-to- one ratio, providing matching funds to party nominees in the general election and repealing burdensome limits on how much participating candidates can spend.
- Shoring Up Other Critical Campaign Finance Rules – We must also fortify other critical campaign finance rules to curb dark money, counter foreign interference in S. elections, and make it harder to sidestep campaign contribution limits. The FTPA takes several key steps to deal with these problems:
- It closes legal loopholes that have allowed dark money to proliferate by requiring all groups that spend significant sums on campaigns to disclose the donors who pay for that spending.
- It expands transparency requirements to apply to online campaign ads on the same terms as those run on more traditional It also strengthens the “paid for” disclaimers that are required to be included in such ads.
- It requires the largest online platforms, with over 50 million unique visitors per month, to establish a public file of requests to purchase political ads akin to the file broadcasters have long been required to maintain.
- It tightens restrictions on coordination between candidates and all outside groups that can raise unlimited funds.
- Overhaul the FEC – A third important priority is to overhaul the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission, which has failed to meaningfully enforce existing rules and would almost certainly struggle to implement other ambitious The FTPA addresses the main flaws of the FEC through several targeted changes:
- Curtails gridlock by reducing the number of commissioners from six to five, with no more than two affiliated with any party — effectively requiring one commissioner to be a tie-breaking independent.
- Provides the commission with a real, presidentially appointed chairperson to serve as its chief administrative officer.
- Ends the practice of allowing commissioners to remain in office indefinitely past the expiration of their terms, which has given Congress and the president an excuse to avoid appointing new members, likely contributing to the agency’s recent loss of its quorum.
- Streamlines the commission’s enforcement process by giving its nonpartisan staff authority to investigate alleged campaign finance violations and dismiss frivolous complaints.
Redistricting Reform – Extreme partisan gerrymandering is another threat to our democracy’s long-term health. We should require independent citizen commissions for congressional redistricting; outlaw partisan gerrymandering and establish other clear criteria for drawing lines; and make the redistricting process more transparent and participatory. The need for redistricting reform is urgent. Extreme gerrymandering has reached levels unseen in the last 50 years. The FTPA offers bold and comprehensive solutions to the problem of gerrymandering:
- Requires states to use independent redistricting commissions to draw congressional maps.
- Imposes a uniform set of rules for how districts should be drawn, expressly outlawing partisan gerrymandering.
- Prioritizes criteria like keeping geographically concentrated communities with shared interests together.
- Commissions would contain equal numbers of Republican, Democratic, and unaffiliated and third party commissioners, with voting rules that ensure that no one group would be able to dominate the redistricting process.
- All potential commissioners would be screened for conflicts of interest to ensure that they do not have a personal stake in the outcome.
- Commission business would be conducted in open public meetings and subject to oversight.
- Data would be made available and all official communications would be subject to disclosure.
- Community groups and members would get a say through testimony and other feedback mechanisms.
- Each commission would be required to show its work and ensure fairness by issuing a detailed report before taking a final vote on a plan.
Election Security – We must also take critical steps to improve the security and reliability of our election infrastructure. The FTPA significantly bolsters the security and resilience of our nation’s election administration infrastructure. Among the most critical reforms, it:
- Requires states to replace insecure paperless voting systems – mandates the replacement of all paperless electronic voting machines with machines that require an individual paper record of each vote.
- Promotes robust audits of electronic election results – provides funds for states to implement robust audits of election results using statistical models to ensure that a sufficient number of paper ballots are checked to corroborate the electronic vote tallies.
- Imposes new requirements for private election system vendors – Among other things, any vendors who receive grants under the act would be required to:
- Certify that the infrastructure they sell to local election jurisdictions is developed and maintained in accordance with cybersecurity best practices;
- Verify that their own information technology is maintained in accordance with cybersecurity best practices;
- Promptly report any suspected cybersecurity incident directed against the goods and services they provide under these grants.
Ethics – Finally, we must establish stronger ethics rules for all three branches of government. These provisions would be an essential first step towards shoring up eroding constraints on self- dealing at the highest levels of government. The For the People Act addresses this challenge. Among the most important changes, it:
- Requires the president and vice president to adhere to the same broad ethical standards as the millions of government employees who work under them, consistent with voluntary practices to which every president going back to the 1960s adhered until President Trump took office;
- Requires the president, vice president, and candidates for those offices to disclose their tax returns, also consistent with longstanding voluntary norms;
- Strengthens the Office of Government Ethics, which oversees ethical compliance in the executive branch;
- Strengthens safeguards against congressional conflicts of interest;
- Strengthens constraints on the “revolving door” between government and industry that prevent former officials from unduly profiting off their time in public service; and
- Requires a code of ethics for the United States Supreme
Summarized from The Brennan Center for Justice: Why Congress Must Pass the ‘For the People Act’ by Wendy Weiser, Daniel I. Weiner, and Dominique Erney: https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/2021- 02/2021_01_Case%20for%20HR1_update_V4.pdf
Summarized by Indivisible Lambertville/New Hope 6/13/21