1. Update
  2. Voting & Elections

116th Congress Tackles Voter Suppression and Money in Politics

By José Santos Woss, January 4, 2019


The first bill out of the House (H.R. 1) is a major overhaul of our democracy.

The new Congress is prioritizing a large comprehensive bill to address the problems of voter suppression, government accountability, and the pernicious influence of money in politics. Introduced on the second day of the 116th Congress, H.R.1 will comprise legislation spanning voting rights, executive and congressional ethics, and money in politics.

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"Our democracy can live up to its potential only if it ensures open access to public office and electoral processes, curbs the influence of money and corporate power, safeguards the integrity of the voting process without raising unnecessary barriers and provides full participation for disenfranchised people." -FCNL's Statement of Legislative Policy

Voter Suppression

The legislation aims to remedy what the harm caused by the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby vs. Holder and restore the protections stripped from the Voting Rights Act. It also includes bold provisions to expand voter particpation through automatic voter registration, internet voter registration, expanded early and simplified absentee voter registration. The bill prohibits purging voter rolls and seeks to address partisan gerrymandering. There are also several provisions related to election security and increased election oversight.

Money in Politics

The proliferation of PACs, Super PACs, Leadership PACs, and multiple campaign accounts mean the voices of ordinary people in our democracy are too often drowned out by a wave of money. Vulnerable communities can’t hire teams of lobbyists to follow complicated appropriations amendments or issues that have major implications for their communities. Too often government privileges those with means to the detriment of people struggling with hunger, over-policing, climate change, mass incarceration, or poverty. The average House election now costs more than $1 million each year and a Senate race regularly tops $10 million. H.R.1 addresses campaign finance reform by dramatically expanding disclosure requirements for donations and campaign ad transparency. It creates a multiple-matching system for small campaign donations to empower the average citizen in the process. The bill also tightens rules around super PACs and restructures the Federal Elections Commission. These reforms will give more voice to all of the people—not just the few.

Ethics

"We hold our government institutions and officials to rigorous ethical standards of fairness, honesty, openness and avoidance of even the appearance of conflicts of interest." - FCNL's Statement of Legislative Policy

The ethics portion of the bill involves new restrictions on elected officials and how they can interface with interested parties. It expands conflict of interest laws and divestment requirements and includes provisions to slow the revolving door so that people know that the government has their best interests in mind when taking official acts.

A world with equity and justice for all will require all of our voices in the process. H.R. 1. Is a good place to begin.

José Santos Woss

  • Legislative Manager, Criminal Justice and Election Integrity

José is the Legislative Manager for Criminal Justice and Election Integrity. He leads FCNL’s work on criminal justice reform, election integrity, and policing. He helps to lead the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition, an alliance of more than 40 national faith groups advocating to end mass incarceration.