Make our voice heard to protect our rights
On Jan. 3 Rep. John Sarbanes introduced the U.S. House of Representatives’ first bill, HR1, The For the People Act. While many are calling it the most sweeping pro-democracy and anti-corruption legislation of the past 50 years, it may be more perceptive to call it the most important civil rights legislation in the last 50 years.
The right to vote and the right to representation in our representative democracy have been slowly eroding over the years and people have come to realize that we must act now before our rights are gone. The flaws within our democracy have evolved over time. The causes are complex. But there are simple remedies for each of these flaws. The For the People Act packs all those solutions together into one package.
HR1 would bring automatic and same-day voter registration to voters across the country, reaffirm Congress’s commitment to restore the full protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and ensure that all voters have at least two weeks of early voting. These reforms would solve most of the serious problems voters have experienced in the last few years.
HR1 includes measures to close loopholes in federal campaign disclosure rules, curb foreign funds in U.S. elections, and fix the Federal Election Commission. It would create a small-donor matching system for Congressional races and revamp the matching system for presidential contests. Smalldonor matching is an innovative reform that uses public funds to amplify small private donations and has existed for decades in places like New York City where it has helped candidates of modest means run for office and allowed elected officials to spend more time talking to their constituents instead of dialing for dollars.
HR1 would curb extreme partisan gerrymandering by ensuring that states draw congressional districts using independent redistricting commissions, eliminating the process whereby politicians pick their voters instead of voters picking their politicians.
HR1 also contains a number of provisions to improve election security, including a requirement that states replace paperless voting machines and new grants to help states enhance election security on an ongoing basis.
HR1 shores up government ethics by strengthening enforcement of ethics rules in all three branches of the federal government. It requires disclosure of presidential tax returns, tightens restrictions on congressional conflicts of interest, and requires the Supreme Court to adopt a code of ethics.
Public polling shows that each of these reforms are supported by at least 75 percent of Americans, regardless of their political persuasion.
Unfortunately, the forces that broke our democracy to begin with are lined up strong in opposition to HR1. The only force that will bring about the passage of The For the People Act is an overwhelming show of support from the people, including people who have never contacted their legislators before.
We need to demand that our representatives support the bill, and those that already do should be asked to reach out to their colleagues across the aisle to encourage their support. If you live in IL-16, please contact Rep. Kinzinger and ask him to co-sponsor the bill. If you live in IL-17, please contact Rep. Bustos, thank her for cosponsoring the bill, and ask what she plans to do to reach across the aisle to bring her Republican colleagues on board. Both representatives can be reached by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-312.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 19 at NSLD/Loves Park, the LWV of Greater Rockford will show the film “Capturing The Flag” which illustrates the need for the voter protection provisions contained in HR1. It tells the stories of individuals trying to exercise their right to vote in 2016 in Cumberland County, North Carolina. There will be a discussion of the issues following the film. We hope you can join us.
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