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SPLC Action Fund: For the People Act (H.R. 1/S. 1) Protects Voters & Establishes Needed Reforms in Aftermath of Insurrection

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer, Jeff Merkley, and Amy Klobuchar announced they will introduce the For the People Act as S. 1. It has already been introduced in the House of Representatives as H.R. 1. The following statement in support of H.R. 1/S. 1 is by Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director for the SPLC Action Fund:

“The For the People Act (H.R. 1/S. 1) is a transformational democracy reform package that would ensure streamlined and effective election administration procedures to help protect the fundamental right to vote in our country. Along with the passage of the For the People Act, Congress must also prioritize enactment of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, upon its reintroduction, which will restore and, where necessary, increase legal protections for some of the most historically disenfranchised communities.

“In the aftermath of the insurrectionist sacking of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 – incited by the outgoing anti-democracy president – these pro-democracy reforms must be incorporated into any comprehensive legislative response. 

“Even before January 6, the 2020 election season underscored the urgent need for transformational democracy reform. Across the nation, Americans experienced unprecedented obstacles to voting, including an ever-worsening pandemic and barriers erected by elected officials. Indeed, since the 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder, states and localities across the Deep South have implemented laws and policies that create barriers to the franchise for voters of color — especially Black voters in the Deep South — new citizens, young voters, and voters with disabilities. 

“The communities in which we work — where our organization is headquartered in Alabama, along with Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida where we have offices — were all covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in full or in part until the Shelby County decision.

“Both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the SPLC Action Fund work to protect voting and political rights in these five states. In addition to implementing harmful laws and policies, legislators and election officials in these states have failed to universally implement a range of common-sense reforms that would make voting simple and accessible to all, including online voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting, early voting, and automatic voter registration, among others. The result in the Deep South is a series of racist and systemic barriers to voting faced by Black, Brown, and Indigenous Americans, including long lines and closed polling places, overbroad and discriminatory purges of registered voters, overly restrictive registration rules, and overt voter intimidation. 

“H.R.1/S. 1 addresses many of these shortcomings. The common-sense reforms in this legislation, which are deeply popular and have passed in many states and localities, aim to accomplish three overarching goals: (1) protecting and strengthening the sacred right to vote, (2) ending the dominance of big money in politics, and (3) implementing anti-corruption, pro-ethics measures to clean up government. Without structural democracy reform, our nation will remain unable to fully address important substantive priorities for the American people, such as expanding affordable healthcare and stopping the spread of COVID-19, protecting the environment, and creating millions of good-paying jobs. 

“Immediate passage of this bill should be a top priority for Congress and the incoming Biden administration, especially as part of the way forward to secure democracy. H.R. 1 already passed the House of Representatives in 2019 during the last session of Congress with unanimous Democratic support and was cosponsored by all members of the Senate Democratic Caucus. President-elect Joe Biden has previously stated that a ‘first priority’ of his administration will be to lead on a comprehensive set of democracy solutions like those reflected in the For the People Act. He should follow through on that promise, and Congress should meet this moment as well, passing H.R. 1/S. 1 without delay.”