A bipartisan bill to restore integrity for the electoral system of America

A bipartisan bill to restore integrity for the electoral system of America
© Greg Nash

Democracy works best when every voter in the country can participate in the process of electing their leaders, no matter where they live, the color of their skin, or how much money they make. We saw this firsthand in the 2020 election when, despite the risks during a deadly global pandemic, Democrats and Republicans overcame obstacles that stood in their way, turning out in record numbers at the ballot box last fall.

Now that the election called by many bipartisan officials one of the most secure in our history is over, it is now critically important for Congress to ensure the attacks our democracy has suffered on several fronts over the last decade are addressed. Our democracy certainly needs repair, and the For the People Act does just that. The legislation tackles some of the most serious challenges to our electoral system. Such reforms are drawn from bills with bipartisan support at the federal and state level.

They include a push for more automatic voter registration, same day and online voter registration, and a creation of new independent redistricting commissions to eliminate gerrymandering. Automatic voter registration has also been passed and implemented with success across more than a dozen states, including the traditional red states of Alaska, Georgia, and West Virginia, with bipartisan support. It passed unanimously across the aisle in Illinois and was signed into law by the governor.

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The For the People Act would provide mail ballot access to all Americans, which has been available in states such as Idaho, Kansas, and Arizona. It allows eligible voters to ask for a mail ballot without providing an excuse and makes the process easier to understand. More than two dozen states, including Florida, Georgia, and Nebraska, allow no excuse absentee and mail voting with key provisions to ensure ballot security.

The legislation would also crack down on the growth of secret spending in politics. Voters have a right to know who is seeking to influence them and the government. Candidates on both sides of the aisle and special interest groups who want to preserve a broken status have attacked the disclosure reforms of the For the People Act by calling it partisan, but their criticisms are veiled. A Campaign Legal Center survey found that over 80 percent of voters across partisan lines support the disclosure of donations. Members of Congress from both parties also support this disclosure.

During the 2020 election cycle, at least $750 million was spent by dark money entities that kept their donors hidden from the public, and since those groups do not have to report their donors, Americans do not know whether the sources of the funds are domestic or foreign as well as what those wealthy donors could be getting in return. More of this money has also been spent in support of Democrats than Republicans.

The For the People Act mandates disclosure when wealthy donors give $10,000 or more to groups that spend money on elections. Similar bills have been introduced and passed at the state level with clear bipartisan support. The dark money disclosure legislation in Montana, for instance, was passed with bipartisan majorities in each chamber.

Moreover, the For the People Act would bolster the enforcement power of the Federal Election Commission. Such inability of the agency to enforce campaign finance laws has indeed led to the explosion in secret money in politics, which tilts power in favor of special interests. To restructure the Federal Election Commission, the legislation borrows from the bipartisan Restoring Integrity to American Elections Act, which was introduced with sponsors from both parties several times over recent years.

When our country has confronted challenges in history, Democrats and Republicans have always come together to find viable solutions. The For the People Act draws on a set of legislation that has enjoyed bipartisan support at both the federal and state level. In defense of our cherished values and most fundamental principles, all our elected officials should unite to repair and restore integrity to our electoral system.

Trevor Potter (@TheTrevorPotter) is the president of the Campaign Legal Center who has served as chairman of the Federal Election Commission.