Voting rights activists from the first decade of the 2000s might be either awed that House of Representatives will pass HR 1, the For the People Act, soon, a nearly all-encompassing anti-corruption bill, or else be disappointed that it took way too long, and occurred in counterpoint to a rogue president who will undoubtedly veto it if it got to his desk, which it won't, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
A large number of Americans polled, more than 80 percent, oppose election corruption.
HR 1 proposes public financing of campaigns, ethics laws, and increasing the rights of voters. It was introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), and chairs of the committees relevant to the bill: Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Jerry Nadler (D-NY).
The government would match people's donations of up to $200 six times over. Citizens United would be struck down. Super PACS and other organizations amassing "dark money" would have to divulge all funding sources. Facebook and Twitter would have to report how much money they took in from political ads and where it came from, and more: the FEC board of commissioners would add another to its four, because of the 2-2 gridlock between the GOP and Democratic contingents.
All presidents and their VPs would have to publicize their tax returns for 10 years previous to their assuming office, as would candidates for these offices; more supervision of the involvement of foreign entities with lobbying groups would be mandatory; and a new code of ethics for SCOTUS.
In the area of voting and elections, the bill mandates automatic voter registration at the national level; promotion of early voting, same-day registration, and online registration; Election Day will be a holiday at the government level and willing private employers; adequate dissemination of information where polls sites are moved from one place to another; registration available on college campuses; an end to purging voter rolls and to partisan gerrymandering at the federal level; adequate protection against foreign invasion of elections systems and any other threats; and adding to the number of poll workers to reduce the long lines that perennially plague polling places located in inner-city districts.
Reviving section 5 of the Voting Rights Act would go far to eliminate race-based discrimination at the polls by preventing malevolent legislation or other acts that threaten voting rights at the state, county, and municipal levels. That won't be considered in HR 1 but separately, perhaps by the end of the year.
In 2018 a record number of people turned out to vote, 110 million, the largest number since 1966, said Barbara Arnwine, elections attorney and head of the Voting Rights Alliance. "The people voted for democracy," she said, citing ballot initiatives that prevailed at the polls concerning early voting, Election Day registration, and gerrymandering; and, in Florida, the franchise for ex-felons, who number 1.4 million. The people's desire for same-day registration and modification of the crippling voter ID requirement in the most stringent states was also expressed.
The 54th annual crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate Bloody Sunday in 1965 and then the successful follow-up supervised by federal protection will this year become a "fight for voting rights," said Arnwine. "The Voting Rights Act (VRA, which resulted from the march) must be fixed." The Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee this year from March 1 through 3 will demand the revival of section 5, which requires preclearance by the Department of Justice of any measures related to voting from the municipal level on up before they can become law or otherwise be enforced. See the website www.selma50 for more on this Jubilee march. Section 5 was gutted by SCOTUS in 2013 on the basis of Chief Justice Roberts's assertion that society was now post-racial; we have elected a black president and the issues that stimulated passage of the VRA were no longer a problem.
I asked Arnwine if these annual crossings aggravated racist elements and whether they interfered with them in any way, including counter-demonstration. She said there was lots of negative interaction with the event, but at the level of brochures and ugly threats. No more Bloody Sundays.
In the voting news now is the fight over seating GOP candidate Mark Harris as Rep. of NC-09 in the House of Representatives despite proof of election corruption in Wake County via ballot harvesting (third parties collecting absentee ballots from private homes to drop them off at elections offices, a very corruptible activity) in his supposed 905-vote victory that is still uncertified. Harris is suing to force a county judge to certify the results. And there's more. The conflict could extend to the end of the year; complications prevented the state elections board from ordering a new set of races (primary-possible runoff-new general election).
Also, in Georgia, the lawsuit against "Governor" Brian Kemp is still in progress. More than 300,000 names were illegally struck from the registration rolls, names of likely Democratic voters who would have put candidate Stacey Abrams in office in 2019. And more data, Crosscheck purge files said to have been lost, have become available to strengthen the plaintiffs' allegations and add even more votes in support of the "losing" candidate.
"So what shall we do now?" I couldn't help asking Arnwine, thinking about the government shutdown among the many other issues that plague us, in election integrity and so many other categories.
"There will be a big fight for the heart of the country," she said.
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