House Democrats tee up “Democracy Reform” for first vote

Published 3:30 pm Friday, January 22, 2021

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By Roz Brown

Texas News Service

AUSTIN, Texas – In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden said democracy is fragile.

So now, good-government groups are asking Congress to bolster our system of elections.

The For the People Act, a package of democracy reforms, is the first numbered bill for consideration by the newly elected U.S. House and Senate.

Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of the group Public Citizen, said it would encourage more people to vote and would make political campaigns more transparent.

“There are provisions in the legislation like automatic voter registration, things that would make it easier to vote by mail, limit secret political spending,” Gilbert outlined.

The bill would require same-day registration – currently prohibited in Texas, which requires voters to register a full month before Election Day.

Despite that obstacle, Texas saw record-breaking voter turnout in 2020, when nearly 68% of the state’s 17 million registered voters cast ballots in the presidential election, the highest rate in decades.

Gilbert noted the bill also would end gerrymandered voting districts, giving voters a better overall chance to choose their representatives – and not the other way around.

“It would create independent commissions,” Gilbert explained. “Taking away the politicization of this process to ensure that lines are drawn by how many people live in a place, not by letting politicians choose their own constituents.”

The bill also would institute new ethics rules for the Executive Branch and Congress, and bolster election security.

The bill originally passed the U.S. House last year, but stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Citing possible fraud, Texas Republicans want to tighten state voting laws during the current session, and restrict governors from changing election laws during disasters.