Bitesized: A simple guide to The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and The For The People Act

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Electoral reform is a key topic in the U.S at any time, but now more than usual. With midterms on the horizon and following the passing of a slew of bills which have sparked concern over the restriction of voting rights, Democrats are pushing for change which would result in a large-scale overhaul of long-standing electoral practices - many of which have been points of contention for many years. They're aiming to do so through two key pieces of legislations. 

  • The For the People Act (H.R. 1) 
  • The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4).

Here's your bitesized breakdown of the pair.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is named after the former civil rights champion and Georgia Congressman. Lewis, a friend of OBV, passed away last year, but the virtues in which he extolled are being carried forward in this new bill. Introduced by House Democrats on Tuesday, the bill is looking to strengthen the Justice Department's jurisdiction to “challenge potentially discriminatory voting rules before they are implemented and proactively protect the freedom to vote.”

It would bolster Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to allow the Justice Department to sue states for discriminatory election rules. It also aims to change the threshold under which states are able to make changes to election laws. The bill would force states to provide evidence of actual “voter fraud” to justify their changes to election laws.

The current iteration of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is seen as relatively more ambitious than the 2019 iteration, and has received support from activists such as Rev. Al Sharpton. A voting rights march backing the new bill is planned for 28 August.

The For the People Act

The For the People Act (H.R. 1) is tipped to be the boldest democracy reform policy since Watergate. In short, H.R. 1 is looking to curb voter suppression and make It easier for Americans to register to vote and cast a ballot. This includes the introduction of automatic voter registration systems whereby people would be registered upon applying to use state services.

Taken by Greg Nash, Photo Editor and The Hill

It would also allow for same-day registration, the re-enfranchisement of convicted felons upon serving their conviction, allow for individuals to register online, create provisions for early voting in federal elections by up to 15 days, and look to tackle the perennial issue of unchecked financial doping in politics in the country.

Specifically, the bill would look to provide greater transparency by mandating the disclosure of donors and funding sources in Super PACS (action committees that spend money on behalf of a group or cause).This is in addition to presidential and vice-presidential nominees having to release tax returns up to 10 years. Lastly, H.R. 1 would seek to prevent partisan gerrymandering - by requiring redistricting to be handled by independent commissions with uniform rules to apply across the country.

 

Mayowa Ayodele

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