By Ben Wynd
After the American Rescue Plan was passed, there was commotion among political commentators and the media about what was next on the Democrats’ legislative agenda. One of these pieces of legislation is House Resolution 1 (HR1). HR1 may be more commonly known as the For the People Act, and is a comprehensive voting right bill with anti-corruption measures strewn throughout. The bill nears 800 pages and would make the most expansive change to our elections since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. The legislation promises to implement nationwide automatic voter registration and eliminate much of the corruption in political advertising. However, one of the largest components of the bill would be the requirement that states have an independent (nonpartisan) redistricting commission when drawing their congressional districts. Independent commissions would prevent state legislatures from drawing gerrymandered maps to give the party in power an advantage. Passing this bill now would be especially crucial seeing that redistricting should start this year when the Census Bureau releases the necessary data.
Recently, Georgia’s new restrictive voting laws have caused upset across the country, causing billion dollar companies like the MLB to take their business elsewhere. HR1 would mandate a minimum of 15 consecutive early voting days for federal elections. These sites would have to be open for a minimum of 10 hours per day. Additionally, the bill prevents states from restricting the ability to vote by mail. There would also be a requirement for states to prepay postage on return envelopes for mail-in voting. Georgia’s restrictions, including the limitation of mail in voting, would be largely nullified through the passage of HR1. The state is also notorious for incorrectly and unfairly purging voters from voter rolls (purging is the practice of removing names from the voter rolls, or the list of registered voters). Unnecessary voter roll purging would be prohibited under HR1. Voter roll purging was largely affecting black voters, making the intention of this practice dubois.
HR1 is a sweeping solution for all the flaws democracy faces, but passing it is a different story. Due to the filibuster, this bill would need to receive 60 votes to pass in the senate. Republicans appear unanimously opposed to the bill in its current form. Republicans control a majority of state legislatures (who draw the congressional maps), making anti-gerrymandering legislation unappealing and many see the required expansion of voting methods as government overreach. Eliminating the filibuster seems unlikely due to opposition from moderate Democrats, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have a lot of work to do before the 2022 midterms.