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Speak Up for Fair Elections and Good Governance

The new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has demonstrated its commitment to fair, secure, and truly representative elections by introducing a multi-faceted bill as its first legislation of the term. HR 1 is organized into three sections: voting, campaign finance, and government ethics. As described in a 22-page guide issued by one of its primary sponsors, Md. Rep. John Sarbanes, it would facilitate much higher voter turnout, end partisan gerrymandering, reform campaign-finance rules, and strengthen election security. It would also expand the reach of and strengthen government ethics rules. HR 1 would amplify the people’s voice, making government work more effectively for all.

The bill would encourage higher turnout in part by, for all federal elections, requiring automatic eligible-voter registration and same-day registration. Voters could also register to vote or update their registrations online. The legislation would limit the ability of states to purge voter rolls and would automatically restore the voting rights of felons who had served their sentences. It would require at least 15 consecutive days of early voting and simplify absentee voting. It would make election day a holiday for federal employees. It would also provide for gathering the data needed to restore important provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court gutted in 2013 in Shelby County v. Holder.

HR 1 would take away state legislators’ authority to draw Congressional district lines. Instead, it would assign that work to independent commissions.

HR 1’s campaign-finance provisions would require increased disclosure of the sources of money used for campaign expenditures. They would also establish a publicly funded matching system for small donations, reducing candidates’ dependence on large donors. The legislation would strengthen the Federal Election Commission, which has been ineffectual.

The bill would improve election security in a number of ways, from requiring use and retention of paper ballots to protect the ability to conduct reliable recounts, to strengthening cybersecurity protections. It would provide for grants to the states to help fund these initiatives.

Finally, the legislation would strengthen ethics rules throughout the government. It would also require Presidential candidates to release their tax returns.

House Democrats’ HR 1 is co-sponsored by some 221 members, most of the Democrats in the House. It is expected to make its way through several committees before coming up for a vote in the full House, probably within a month. The Democratic House leadership also plans to pass separate, smaller bills, each containing some of the provisions of HR 1. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not allow HR 1 to come up for a vote in the Senate, there is hope that he would allow votes on some of the smaller bills containing individual elements of HR 1.

Let our representatives in Washington know that you support fair and secure elections in which all citizens have convenient access to the polls.

E-mail Rep. Don Beyer at Tell him:

Thank you for working to pass HR 1; this much-needed legislation would go far to strengthen our election process.

E-mail Senator Kaine at Tell them:I strongly support HR 1 and urge you to work for passage of equivalent legislation or portions of it in the Senate. We need fairer and more secure elections, and also stronger ethics rules in government.

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