Freedom to Vote

Deb Wake, LWV-VA President

For the People Act has been in the news a lot lately. The League supports it as do the majority of voters, but what exactly is in it? The name derives from the fact that we live in a representative democracy–we elect legislators to represent us in the crafting of laws for our collective benefit. However, legislators have not always had their constituents in mind and have sometimes worked to grab the power belonging to voters. The 886 page bill is divided into three main sections: Voting, Campaign Finance and Ethics.

Voting

  • Registration
    • Allow online registration
    • Prohibit requiring more than the last 4 digits of a social security number
    • Automatic voter registration
    • Same day voter registration for federal elections
    • Provides Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds for modernization of voter registration
    • Makes it unlawful to interfere with voter registration
  • Voter roll maintenance
    • Limits removal of voters based on interstate crosschecks for federal elections
    • Prohibits returned, nonforwardable mail as a basis for removal
    • Clarifies that failure to vote is not grounds for removal
  • Access to voting
    • Prohibits the ability of those who are not election officers from challenging eligibility of voters
    • Improves voting access for those with disabilities
    • Prohibits mis/disinformation and voter intimidation
    • Provides for restoration of voting rights after felony time served
    • Requires that provisional ballots from eligible voters are counted
    • Requires 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections
    • Requires polling places are located near public transportation
    • Makes voting by mail available
    • Allows voters to track receipt of absentee ballots
    • Allows for postage paid for all voting materials
    • Requires military and overseas voters be sent ballots 45 days in advance of an election
    • Allows universities to register voters
    • Requires voters be notified of polling place changes no later than 7 days before an election
    • Allows voters to sign sworn affidavit in lieu of a photo ID
    • Provides accommodations for voters residing in Indian lands
    • Ensures equitable and efficient operation of polling places
    • Requires secure drop boxes for federal elections
    • Allows for curbside voting
  • Verifiable results by using paper ballots
  • Requires EAC to develop election officer training models and provide grants to cover trainings
  • Requires Attorney General establish state-based response system and hotline to provide voter information and assistance

Election Integrity

  • Restores the Voting Rights Act
  • Protect and promote Native American voting rights
  • Establish DC statehood
  • Recognizes voting rights in US Territories

Election Security

  • Establishes standards for vendors and equipment
  • Directs EAC to develop best practices and guidelines for ballot design
  • Requires regular system testing
  • Makes grants available to states for updating voting equipment
  • Investigation of potential cybersecurity incidents
  • Authorizes grants for risk-limiting audits
  • Requires scheduled testing of voting equipment

Redistricting

  • Requires every state to have an independent Redistricting Commission to draw congressional districts
  • Ends practice of prison gerrymandering

Campaign Finance

  • Establishes duty to report foreign interference
  • Enacts the Disclose Act to prohibit donations campaign donations from foreign actors and requires reporting of donations of $10,000 or more
  • Enacts the Honest Ads Act to require the same rules apply to to digital and online ads as already apply to radio, tv and print ads.
  • Expands disclosure requirements to cover corporations, unions and other organizations purchasing political ads.
  • Expresses need for Congress to amend the Constitution to address detrimental Citizens United decision.
  • Establishes public financing (from surcharge on settlements paid by corporate law breakers and wealthy tax cheats) match of 6-1 on small donor contributions (or first $200 from presidential candidates)
  • Restructures the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to have five commissioners and makes permanent the FEC’s civil penalty authority.
  • Establishes deadline for disbursement of campaign funds
  • Requires FEC to develop requirements for political committee reports prior to an election

Ethics

  • Requires code of ethics for Supreme Court judges
  • Increases resources for the Foreign Agents Registration unit of the Department of Justice.
  • Requires all presidential appointees to recuse themselves from any matter where the President or President’s spouse might have a substantial interest
  • Establishes a single clearinghouse for Lobby Disclosure Act and Foreign Agents Registration Act registration forms
  • Prevents lobbyists from working on behalf of foreign entities
  • Prohibits incentive payments from corporations to individuals entering or leaving government service
  • Prohibits federal employee from award contract to former employee for two years after leaving the company or government service
  • Requires Executive Branch ethics waivers to be disclosed to the Office of Government Ethics and to the public
  • Reauthorizes the Office of Government Ethics and enhances tis enforcement mechanisms
  • Codifies Executive Branch ethics pledge
  • Codifies rules for members of Congress and their staff from using official position to advance either financial interests or those of their immediate families
  • Requires online linking of FEC and Lobbying Disclosure Act reports
  • Requires disclosure of individual and certain business tax returns for Presidents and Vice Presidents as well as certain candidate for those offices and requires that FEC make these forms publicly available.

 

It is important to note that For the People’s Act sets a floor for voting practices, not a ceiling. Many of Virginia’s laws exceed these guidelines making sure that voters have the freedom to vote and the power of their vote is preserved.

 

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