Congressional Democrats' first bill aims to end gerrymandering, increase voter registration and rein in campaign finance

HR1, the first bill that the new Democratic House of Representatives will vote on, is omnibus legislation that takes on some of the most pervasive scourges of representative democracy: vote suppression, oligarchic campaign financing and gerrymandering.

Under HR1's provisions, electoral districting will be taken away from state legislatures and handed to independent commissions (this is very popular with the American public and similar ballot initiatives just sailed into law in Colorado, Missouri and Michigan).

HR1 provides for automatic voter registration and reestablishes provisions from the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court neutered in 2013 (though as Yves notes at Naked Capitalism, "If they actually cared about voter turnout they would push election day registration which, unlike automatic registration, has been shown to increase turnout by around 5%").

HR1 also overturns Citizens United (previously), the 2010 Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to unlimited, oligarchic campaign spending, including hundreds of millions in "dark money" funneled into Super-PACs.

HR1 doesn't stop there: it also closes a loophole that exempts presidents from conflict of interest rules (a loophole that Trump has enthusiastically exploited).

It's not clear how the bill will fare; Senate Republicans are likely to be divided on it, and the provisions that override the Supreme Court are unlikely to find a hospitable reception in the current court.

But as a stake in the ground, it's a pretty impressive outing: forcing GOP politicians to vote in favor of dark money, gerrymandering, and allowing for presidential conflict-of-interest will give the Democrats a lot to campaign on in 2020.

"It's three very basic things that I think the public wants to see," said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who spearheads campaign finance and government ethics efforts for the House Democratic Caucus. He said H.R. 1 will "demonstrate that we hear that message loud and clear."

But even Sarbanes admits the quick vote is just a first step. Republicans, who control the Senate, are unlikely to pass the bill and President Trump is unlikely to sign it. "Give us the gavel in the Senate in 2020 and we'll pass it in the Senate," Sarbanes said. "Give us a pen in the Oval Office and we'll sign those kinds of reforms into law."

The bill would establish automatic voter registration and reinvigorate the Voting Rights Act, crippled by a Supreme Court decision in 2013. It would take away redistricting power from state legislatures and give it to independent commissions.

Other provisions would overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, which declared political spending is First Amendment free speech; they would mandate more disclosure of outside money and establish a public financing match for small contributions.

Democrats Say Their First Bill Will Focus On Strengthening Democracy At Home [Peter Overby/NPR]

(via Naked Capitalism)

(Image: Kheel Center, CC-BY)

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