1. Background
  2. Voting & Elections

The For the People Act

Bill Analysis of H.R. 1

By Allison Lee, February 5, 2019


On the second day of the 116th Congress, the new House Democratic introduced a major piece of legislation to address election integrity. The bill’s main components focus on voting and election laws, campaign finance, and ethics.

Bill Summary

Voter Suppression

When it comes to voter suppression, the United States has a racially violent and discriminatory past. The Voting Rights act of 1965 overcame barriers that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote. However, in 2013 in Shelby vs. Holder, the Supreme Court gutted an important provision of the Voting Rights Act – the Section 5 preclearance system. The preclearance system required states with a history of racial discrimination in voting to submit any proposed changes to their voting laws to the Department of Justice or a federal court for review. Immediately following the Shelby decision, several states implemented discriminatory voting laws.

H.R. 1 Will:

  • Create automatic voter registration and restore felony voting rights.
  • Expand early voting and simplify absentee voting.
  • Restore the Voting Rights Act.
  • Enhance federal support for voting system security.

Money in Politics

The average House election now costs more than $1 million each year, and Senate races regularly top $10 million. 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.

In the last decade, courts have struck down congressional efforts to regulate campaign spending. Any attempt to address campaign finance raises legitimate free speech concerns, but it is necessary to balance those concerns with the access and influence that money can buy, and the detrimental effects campaign spending can have on ordinary people’s faith in our democratic system.

H.R. 1 Will:

  • Expand disclosure requirements for donations and campaign ad transparency.
  • Create a multiple-matching system for small campaign donations to empower citizens.
  • Restructures the Federal Election Commission to break gridlock.

Ethics

There are serious ethical lapses in our nation’s political system. We expect our lawmakers to have the best interests of the people in mind when making decisions. When conflicts of interest fuel policy decisions, it can be very dangerous for democracy.

H.R. 1 Will:

  • Fortify ethics law and increase accountability by preventing members of Congress from serving on corporate boards, slowing the “revolving door” of people experts cycling from Capitol Hill into the private industry, and expand conflict of interest law and divestment requirements.
  • Impose greater ethics enforcement by closing loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents, establishing a code of ethics for the Supreme Court, and overhauling the Office of Government ethics.

Corporate special interests have undermined the will of the American people for far too long. By ensuring fair elections, restoring transparency, and cleaning up corruption, these reforms would dramatically change the balance of power in Washington.

Allison Lee

  • 2018 Program Assistant, Domestic Policy

Allison Lee was a FCNL Young Fellow from 2018-2019. She worked alongside José Woss on criminal justice reform, campaign finance reform (election integrity), and police militarization. Her primary responsibilities included lobbying members of Congress, writing policy updates, and conducting legislative research. She has always been very passionate about dismantling systems that promote racial disparities.