Our democracy is in crisis. Each day brings more news of corruption, voter suppression, and shocking lawlessness at the highest levels of our government. Basic transparency and routine oversight are stymied at every turn. Corporations and wealthy interests pay top dollar, often anonymously, to influence elections and lobby officials, drowning out the voices of everyday voters. Instead of taking steps to secure our elections, the President of the United States is inviting – demanding, even – that foreign governments interfere in the 2020 election. Americans are feeling, with good reason, that our democracy is broken.
But there is hope for change.
In March 2019, the Declaration For American Democracy worked collectively to help ensure the U.S. House passed the groundbreaking reforms in the For the People Act (H.R.1), and introduced the Senate Companion S.949, with every single Democrat signed on.
The For the People Act contains three main pillars:
- Ensuring all Americans can have their voices heard by reforming our voting and election laws by strengthening election security, ending partisan gerrymandering, and enacting automatic voter registration;
- Getting big money out of politics by creating a new small-donor matching funds system for federal candidates, requiring super PACs and “dark money” political organizations to make their donors public, and strengthening oversight rules to ensure those who break our campaign finance laws are held accountable; and
- Ending corruption and holding public officials accountable by expanding conflict-of-interest laws, banning members of Congress from serving on corporate boards, and requiring major party presidential candidates to publicly disclose their tax returns.
The Declaration for American Democracy also contributed to the fight to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R.4) through the House in December 2019. The Voting Rights Advancement Act seeks to restore critical provisions of the Voting Rights Act (1965), which was gutted in the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. For decades these provisions had protected voters in states with histories of pernicious voting discrimination. This decision gave state lawmakers license to suppress the vote of communities of color without significant risk of legal challenges
Amongst the public, there is bipartisan consensus that our democracy is in danger, and 82% of Americans want these kinds of reforms to return power to the people. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been holding the For the People Act and the Voting Rights Advancement Act hostage in the Senate, unwilling to bring either up for a vote.
If Americans are ever going to see progress on the issues they care about, we must have a democracy that responds to the needs and priorities of voters – not wealthy donors and corporate interests. The Declaration for American Democracy remains committed to work closely with members of Congress and state and local stakeholders to build the momentum necessary for these once-in-a-generation democracy solutions to be signed into law.