Commentary

Commentary: The For the People Act of 2021 and next steps

July 15, 2021 5:01 am
(Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The For the People Act of 2021 addresses voter access, election integrity and security, campaign finance, and ethics for the three branches of the federal government. It passed the House of Representatives as HR-1 and is before the Senate as S-1.

The Act is divided into 3 parts: Voting, Campaign Finance, and Ethics. It details Congress’s explicit and broad authority, granted by the Constitution, to protect the right to vote, to regulate elections for federal office, and to defend the Nation’s democratic process. It has dozens of subparts and sections spanning over 850 pages.

Art Gillen (Photo: Submitted)
Art Gillen (Photo: Submitted)

What it is

The bill expands voter registration (e.g., automatic and same-day registration) and voting access (e.g., vote-by-mail and early voting). It also limits removing voters from voter rolls.

S-1 requires states to establish independent redistricting commissions to carry out congressional redistricting. This ensures that voting districts are drawn in an equitable, non-partisan manner. 

Additionally, the bill sets forth provisions related to election security, including sharing intelligence information with state election officials, supporting states in securing their election systems, developing a national strategy to protect U.S. democratic institutions, establishing in the legislative branch the National Commission to Protect United States Democratic Institutions, and other provisions to improve the cybersecurity of election systems. As we move into the 21st century, these provisions will keep US elections in our own hands, free from outside interference. 

Further, the bill addresses campaign finance, including expanding the prohibition on campaign spending by foreign nationals, requiring additional disclosure of campaign-related fundraising and spending, requiring additional disclaimers regarding certain political advertising, and establishing an alternative campaign funding system for certain federal offices. This section of the bill tries to limit the influence big money has on our government. 

The bill addresses ethics in all three branches of government, including requiring a code of conduct for Supreme Court Justices, prohibiting Members of the House from serving on the board of a for-profit entity, and establishing additional conflict-of-interest and ethics provisions for federal employees and the White House. These sweeping anti-corruption reforms are crucial to ensuring the federal government works for us, the people, and not the ultra-wealthy donor class. 

The bill requires the President, the Vice President, and major party candidates for those offices to disclose 10 years of tax returns

Indivisible

Indivisible started as a national guide for resistance. Today, it’s a network of progressive grassroots organizers fighting for a better Tennessee. Since 2016, Indivisible groups in Tennessee have been organizing at the local, state and national levels resisting extremism and fighting back against the control of greedy politicians and lobbyists that try to divide us against each other as they enrich themselves.

In 2021, Indivisible groups consolidated into a statewide network “Indivisible TN” to become a more nimble and effective organizing body in order to solve the problems our communities face. It’s going to take a decade (or more) to build the Tennessee we want to see.

The For the People Act of 2021 (H.R. 1) passed the House of Representatives on March 3, 2021. The Senate version of the bill, which has been designated S. 1 and tracks closely to the House’s language, was introduced on March 17, 2021. Most of these reforms would be implemented for the November 2022 general election, except for some redistricting and public financing changes that would go into effect later. It was filibustered by the Senate Republicans under the leadership of Mitch McConnell. 

Next Steps

If you need more information to decide on supporting this bill, stay tuned. This Op-Ed will be followed with a series of Op-Eds going into more detail on the elements of the bill – Election Integrity, Ethics in Politics, Getting Dark Money out of Politics, the unfairness of the Filibuster, and the duplicity of Bipartisanship. These Op-Eds will identify disinformation being spread about the content and impact of the bill and facts to refute those falsehoods. Lastly we will highlight what our Tennessee legislators have been up to at the expense of the majority of Tennesseans.

If you are ready and anxious to support passage of the bill, here are some steps you can take. First, develop your own talking points about why you are in favor of the For the People Act. Then, interact with your elected officials, your friends, and folks on social media. Let them know you support the bill and let them know why. Finally, thinking about spreading the message wider. Call a radio station, post on social media, or write a letter to the editor. 

Do your own research, and come up with your own reasons, but in case you want some help, here’s a list of helpful bullet points about why the For the People Act is such a high priority: 

  • It ensures elections remain clean and fair.
  • It improves voter access, promotes integrity, and ensures security.
  • It helps reduce the dominance of big money over American politics. 
  • It shows respect to all the democratic patriots that fought, and in some cases, died, for the right for everyone’s vote to count. 
  • It ensures public servants serve the public, not special interests. 
  • It provides stronger ethical oversight to fight corruption. 
  • It will improve voter turnout by making sure rural and urban communities all have a chance to make their voice heard. 
  • It provides all eligible citizens with the right to vote. 
  • It will help break partisan deadlock in Washington and get the whole Congress back to working For the People. 
  • It is foundational to a strong economy. Businesses are attracted to strong, healthy democracies. 
  • It is paramount to national security. The ability to have secure elections is tantamount to preserve and protect our democracy.

For more information on our organization, Indivisible Tennessee, check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/IndivisibleTennessee, our website: https://indivisibletn.org or email us at [email protected]

 

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Art Gillen
Art Gillen

Art Gillen and his wife moved to Greene County, Tennessee, My wife and I moved to Greene County TN in 2006 after living most of their lives in New Jersey. They enjoy the beauty and quiet of their small farm but their biggest lament is the lack of progressive vision by local and state elected officials. The formation of a local and now a state-wide Indivisible organizations has allowed them to focus efforts on fighting disinformation and challenging our elected officials to keep their promises and act in the best interest of all their constituents.

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