For the People Act: What You Need to Know

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaking in favor of HR1

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaking in favor of HR1

In the aftermath of the 2020 election, both parties are trying to change how voting will look for years to come. Republicans on the state-wide level have been working to implement restrictions that will make voting harder. This includes almost completely getting rid of absentee ballots and shortening the window of time to vote. It is widely believed by Democrats that many of these restrictions have the simple objective of making it easier for Republicans to win elections. However, in states that went blue for Biden but have Republican majorities in state legislatures, such as Georgia, not much can be done to stop these efforts. One of the only options that Democrats have to combat this is an expansive, 800-page bill that would bring about massive changes to voting. This act is called the HR 1 Resolution, more commonly known as the For the People Act (FTP).

The FTP is the Democratic version of changing voting, and it goes in the opposite direction of what Republicans are working for. The bill will make it significantly easier to vote for many people. For one, voter registration would be automatic. Right now, when the registration period comes, Americans are expected to register to vote for themselves. If someone forgets to do so or decides at the last minute they would like to cast one, they’re out of luck. By changing the voter registration system, the FTP will make it so someone has to “opt-out” of voting instead of “opt-in”. Therefore, if someone has made up their mind enough that they don’t want to cast a vote, they can ensure they won’t be registered. Yet at the same time, anyone on the fence about voting can just remain registered to keep the option open. Anyone who is registered to vote has no obligation to actually do so, meaning what is right now a system where someone has to go out of their way to prepare to vote can be something where no one has to prepare to do their constitutional duty.

Another major change coming with HR 1 is to protect the voting options that already exist. As mentioned earlier, Republican lawmakers want to restrict mail-in-ballots and the window of time available for early voting. If the FTP was to take action, none of those restrictions would be found anywhere. The bill itself states, “Each State shall allow individuals to vote in an election for Federal office during an early voting period which occurs prior to the date of the election.” This period would be at least 15 days long. Early voting itself is very complicated at the moment, with different regions providing various amounts of it or sometimes none at all. This part of the bill would not just make early voting universal, but much easier to understand. Furthermore, voting by mail would remain a viable option nationwide under this bill. This makes sense, as Democrats heavily favored mail-in-ballots this past election and the party’s leaders encouraged voters to vote by mail rather than go to the voting booth. While it’s unlikely that mail-in-voting will be as widely used as it was in 2020 due to COVID-19, it may continue to be popular in future elections. The FTP Act would make sure it can be used easily and without resistance, as many other states are looking to make it.

Aside from voting, HR 1 would be able to further change how campaigns are run. The ways many politicians receive money have always been infamously suspicious. Voters of both, or neither, parties have often called for this corruption to be cleaned up. The FTP Act would be able to partially do this, with a focus on small donations by normal people. Any donation made by a grassroots (aka typical) supporter would be offered by the government to be matched 6 times over. For example, if a candidate for president raised a collective $30 million from small donations of mostly $5 or $10, the government would be able to supply this candidate with another $180. This money will not come from taxes, so no citizen will be inadvertently paying for a candidate they may not support. Also part of the bill would be the Honest Ads Act, which regards political ads on social media. Under its rules, sites such as Twitter and Facebook would have to make sure anyone can know where the money for political ads is coming from. This way, the public can know who is trying to change their opinion, and can possibly discourage foreign involvement in elections, such as what happened in 2016.

Unfortunately, the full list of what the For The People Act would do is almost impossible to write, being that the bill is so massive. However, it is also worth noting that it would also allow felons to vote, so long as they have completed their sentence. It’s not hard to argue, regardless of one’s opinions, that the bill would change a lot. The odds of it being sent to President Biden’s desk, where it would almost certainly be signed into law, are slim. Although it was already passed by the House, the filibuster in the Senate would make it so 60 senators need to support it. Even with all 50 Democratic senators on board, HR 1 will probably not make it past today’s Congress. Right now, the bill is waiting to be brought up by the Senate. While nothing may happen with it right now, it is important to keep a close eye on the future of the For the People Act.