House Passes H.R.1; A Sweeping Voting Rights Act

The House on Wednesday night passed a sweeping voting and campaign finance reform bill that aims to expand voting access, increase election security and change how congressional districts are drawn across the county.

The For the People Act of 2021, known as H.R. 1, passed by a vote of 220 to 210. One Democrat, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, joined with all Republicans in voting against the legislation.

“This is existential,” said Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), “Our democracy is under assault. And if we don’t pass this legislation now, my prediction is we will not have a democracy over the next decade.”

“Everything is at stake. We must win this race, this fight,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “At the same time as we are gathering here to honor our democracy, across the country, over 200 bills are being put together, provisions are being put forward to suppress the vote.”

The bill would institute national standards in every state to expand access to voting. It would also include requiring automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, at least 15 days of early in-person voting, “no excuse” mail-in voting with prepaid postage, online voter registration, and the restoration of voting rights to felons upon release from custody.

Furthermore, the bill would prohibit states from making it more difficult to vote by putting a ban on certain voter purge practices and imposing new penalties for deceptive electioneering.

It would also require all state election systems to keep a paper ballot trail and other election security provisions.

“At a time when Americans from across the political spectrum are demanding real change and accountability from their elected officials, it’s more important than ever before to deliver on the promise of H.R. 1 and restore faith in our democracy,” Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the lead sponsor of the House bill, said in a statement. “We have no time to waste.”

The fate of the bill now lies in the Senate, where Republicans are expected to filibuster the legislation.

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