The House passed Democrats’ massive election reform bill, the “For the People Act,” on Wednesday in the wake of lingering bitterness over the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
Republicans warned that the legislation amounts to a federal takeover of the election system that will create opportunities for fraud, while Democrats say that the longtime wish list of reforms would expand voting access and reduce the influence of money in elections.
Democrats previously passed a version of H.R. 1, the bill number saved to signify a top priority of the majority party, in the last Congress in 2019, but it never got a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. This time, every single House Democrat has signed on to the bill, and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is poised to bring the legislation up in the Senate, though he only has a slim, non-filibuster-proof 50-50 majority.
Measures in the massive bill, passed 220-210, include:
- A new program providing for public financing of federal elections, matching small-dollar donations 6 to 1.
- Creating nationwide automatic voter registration.
- Reducing the number of members on the Federal Election Commission from six to five. Democrats say this will allow the commission to do its job rather than be deadlocked, but Republicans say it would make the FEC a “partisan weapon.”
- Requiring certain politically active groups, including 401(c)3 “dark money” nonprofit organizations, to disclose donors who give $10,000 or more, expanding the definition of election-related communications, and reducing the influence of independent, expenditure-only “super PACs,” among other measures.
- Requiring states to allow any eligible voter to vote by mail-in federal elections.
- Requiring states to allow any eligible voter to use ballot drop boxes.
- Allowing felons who have completed their incarceration to voting.
Democrats celebrated the impending passage of the bill with a press conference on the Capitol steps on Wednesday, during which Democrats held up small American flags.