The Democrat-controlled House passed a bill called H.R.1 on Wednesday, dubbed the “For the People Act.” The bill seeks to implement automatic voter registration and numerous other election reforms. Conservatives who oppose the bill say it will be disastrous for election integrity and chill speech due to its expansive definition of “political speech.”
Vox has highlighted some of the election reforms contained in the 800-page bill, which many have claimed is simply too large to parse in such a short amount of time:
- Creates new national automatic voter registration that asks voters to opt out rather than opt in, ensuring more people will be signed up to vote. Requires chief state election officials to automatically register eligible unregistered citizens.
- Requires each state to put online options for voter registration, correction, cancellation, or designating party affiliation.
- Requires at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections; early voting sites would be open for at least 10 hours per day. The bill also prohibits states from restricting a person’s ability to vote by mail, and requires states to prepay postage on return envelopes for mail-in voting.
- Establish independent redistricting commissions in states as a way to draw new congressional districts and end partisan gerrymandering in federal elections.
- Prohibits voter roll purging and bans the use of non-forwardable mail being used as a way to remove voters from rolls.
- Restores voting rights to people convicted of felonies who have completed their sentences; however, the bill doesn’t restore rights to felons currently serving sentences in a correctional facility.
In the campaign finance portion of the bill, the federal government “would provide a voluntary 6-1 match for candidates for president and Congress, which means for every dollar a candidate raises from small donations, the federal government would match it six times over.” The program would be paid for by “adding a 2.75 percent fee on criminal and civil fines, fees, penalties, or settlements with banks and corporations that commit corporate malfeasance,” according to Vox.
Through an amendment, the bill would effectively reverse the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which ruled that the government may not restrict political speech by corporations. The “Disclose Act” would require super PACs and so-called “dark money” organizations to publicly disclose their donors.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative non-profit, argues that the bill “tramples on the free speech and free association rights of American citizens.”
“Throughout its nearly 800 pages of complex and convoluted text, H.R. 1 imposes unworkable and invasive regulations on the ability of individual Americans and groups of citizens to discuss vital policy issues with elected officials or the public and to exercise constitutionally protected freedoms,” the ADF claims. “The bill intrudes upon the private financial decisions made by everyday citizens, subjecting them to harassment and intimidation simply for giving to causes they care about.”
“The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that ‘the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.’ We hope the Senate will see through this façade and reject this misleading and deeply flawed bill,” the organization said.