For the People Act Introduced in Congress
Bold Democracy Reforms in the Making
Sister Quincy Howard, OP
January 15, 2019
This week, as the new Democratic House leadership began implementing their agenda, democracy reform emerged as the #1 priority. Speaker Pelosi, with Representative Sarbanes’ leadership, introduced the For the People Act (H.R.1), broad legislation designed to put the people back in charge of our government. When this bill was introduced earlier this month, it immediately garnered 220 co-sponsors.
The timing and importance of this bill cannot be overstated. Today we see how the manipulation of big data and key SCOTUS rulings (Shelby and Citizens United) have resulted in an impaired democratic system. Last year’s midterm elections revealed a system that allows suppression of votes, distortion of representation and the prominence of moneyed interests to sway election outcomes. Fortunately, the 2018 election also demonstrated a growing momentum across the nation to strengthen our democracy. Local and state ballot initiatives emerged—and many passed—which sought to reinstate the influence of voters in an increasingly rigged system.
We know that now is the time to act: there is a groundswell of urgency and deep concern for our democracy. There is a growing movement for reforms explicitly committed to ensuring that all voices are heard equally and to advancing the rights of those who have been cut out of the current system. People want to believe in a successful and functional government that truly represents the values of their community.
Voting rights and fair representation in our democracy are foundational to NETWORK’s Mend the Gaps policy vision for 2020. Just and equal representation for all is a necessary condition for making progress in our advocacy efforts. It takes full representation to pass policies that benefit the common good. At NETWORK, we also believe the right and responsibility to participate in the political process. No individual or community should be disenfranchised by federal policy.
NETWORK is part of a diverse advocacy coalition building momentum by advancing policies that promote just election reforms at the federal level. The For the People Act is a comprehensive package of policy fixes which, combined, are far-reaching in scope. These provisions run the gamut from ethics rules for elected and appointed officials to automatic voter registration, publicly financed election campaigns, and everything in-between.
H.R. 1 is generally described as having three broad policy objectives:
- Ending the dominance of big money in our politics
- Ensuring public servants work for the public interest
- Making voting easier and improving elections
Within this legislative framework, NETWORK Lobby is focused on policies related to voting and elections. Our faith teaches that we have a responsibility to participate in politics out of a concern for, and commitment to, the common good. This responsibility to participate means each person also has a fundamental right to participate.
H.R.1 has a bold and comprehensive platform of provisions intended to ensure that all votes count. For the People would begin the process to restore the Voting Rights Act with a series of hearings to investigate modern-day tools used to suppress the vote. [Spoiler alert: many of them are the same tactics banned under the original Voting Rights Act!]
NETWORK supports additional provisions that improve election integrity by:
- Making registration and voting more accessible for eligible voters
- Improving polling and election operations
- Restoring voting rights as criminal justice reform
Finally, in line with NETWORK’s advocacy for an accurate Census 2020 count, we support provisions to end gerrymandering. A democracy that accurately reflects the body politic requires a fair, accurate Census count for fair apportionment and then a non-partisan redistricting process. H.R.1 includes reforms that would separate the redistricting process from politics through independent state redistricting committees.
A functional and fair democracy undergirds all of the policy goals and objectives that we at NETWORK advocate for.
Learn more about the broader Declaration for American Democracy coalition and advocacy efforts around H.R.1 on their webpage.