HR 1

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Editorials: Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. 1 election reform bill could save American democracy. | Richard Hasen/Slate

The Democrats’ first order of business as they took control of the 116th Congress was introducing H.R. 1, the colossal “For the People Act.” This 571-page behemoth of a bill covering voting rights, campaign finance reform, ethics improvements, and more was a perfect reminder of just how much power the Constitution gives Congress to make elections better in this country and, sadly, of how partisan the question of election reform has become. By beginning with election reform as “H.R. 1,” Democrats signaled their priorities as they took over control of the House of Representatives. The bill now has 221 co-sponsors, all Democrats, including almost every Democrat in the House. It’s disheartening that bipartisan movement on election reform is no longer possible and that few of the significant improvements in the bill stand a chance of becoming law until Democrats have control of the Senate and the presidency. Even then some of its provisions could be blocked by a conservative-leaning Supreme Court. But if and when Democrats ever do return to full power in Washington, H.R. 1 should remain the top priority. Though there is room for some improvements, the “For the People Act” would go an enormous way toward repairing our badly broken democracy. Read More

Editorials: Congress ignored its election duties for years. That ends now. | Matthew Weil/Roll Call

House Democrats have waited eight years to regain the speakership, and now that they hold the gavel, they will clearly seek to move on pent-up priorities. For their first act out of the gate, they rolled several into one. The “For the People Act” — or H.R. 1 — runs just over 500 pages and includes proposals the Democrats have pursued during their time in the minority, such as ethics reforms, campaign finance changes, and a well-publicized section requiring presidential candidates to hand over their tax returns. But the bill also lays out a vision for election administration in 2020 and beyond, putting the voter at the center of the process instead of focusing on what is easier for government. Congress taking the lead could cause some heartburn at the state level. Read More

National: Here are the big election security measures in the House Democrats’ massive new bill | CyberScoop

A giant bill House Democrats proposed on Friday includes a number of measures aimed at improving election security and voter confidence. The measures in H.R. 1 draw on provisions from several bills that were proposed but failed since the 2016 election, which experts and officials concluded was targeted by a Russian-led influence operation. Key features include a requirement that federal elections be conducted with paper ballots that can be counted by hand or optical scanners, new grants that states and municipalities can use to improve and upgrade equipment, an incident reporting requirement for election system vendors and a number of other measures meant to keep election systems’ security up-to-date. Election security experts have criticized paperless voting machines because of their vulnerability to tampering with little recourse, since they produce no auditable paper trail of each vote. Such machines were used to some extent in more than a dozen states in the recent midterm elections, according to Verified Voting. In South Carolina and Georgia, voters sued the government under the premise that their votes aren’t being properly counted with paperless machines. The bill, also called the “For the People Act,” would statutorily do away with these machines for federal elections by 2022. Read More

Editorials: Protecting voices of all voters is critical to free and fair elections | Paul Smith/The Hill

Popular sentiment for election reform continues to grow, and lawmakers in Washington are finally listening. On the first day of the new Congress, the House introduced its first bill. Its purpose is to protect the voices of all voters in the political process and restore trust in government. Given the troubling injuries to our democracy inflicted by several recent Supreme Court decisions, such legislative solutions have become sorely needed. These Supreme Court decisions over the years have chipped away at key safeguards, including the Voting Rights Act and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, both put in place to protect the integrity of our elections. This regressive trend has led to increased voter suppression all across the country and unprecedented dark money in campaigns. Together, they contribute to a sense that American democracy no longer functions. Read More

Editorials: Democratic House will address most important civil rights issue in half century | Lawrence Lessig/USA Today

In its first act next January, the new House is scheduled to take up the most important civil rights bill in half a century. The bill signals a profoundly comprehensive understanding of the flaws that have evolved within our democracy. That it is scheduled first screams a recognition that these flaws must be fixed first, if we’re to have a Congress that is free to do the other critically important work that Congress must do. But that the bill is all but invisible to anyone outside the beltway signals the most important gap left in this most important fight to make representative democracy in America possible — if not again, then finally. The bill  —  denominated H.R. 1  —  is a radically comprehensive and practical fix to all but one of the critical failures of our evolved system of representative democracy. Crafted primarily by Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD), the bill recognizes that there are multiple flaws within our democracy and that these flaws must be addressed together. Read More