ACLU does not Support Current “For the People Act” on Voting Rights

Just wanted to share a quick link. For anyone paying attention to US politics, House Democrats just passed the For the People Act, which aims to comprehensively overhaul both federal and state elections.

The ACLU has published a letter criticizing specific provisions of the bill and calling for floor amendments to be considered in the House:

“…there are many provisions of H.R. 1 that we strongly support and have long championed, we would readily support these provisions if considered as separate bills… However, there are also provisions that unconstitutionally impinge on the free speech rights of American citizens and public interest organizations.”

https://www.aclu.org/letter/aclu-letter-house-rules-committee-hr-1

I agree with some provisions of this bill:

  • Making presidential Election Day a national holiday
  • Making voter registration, early voter eligibility, and same-day registration/voting available for all voters
  • Allowing online political advertisements to be covered as part of the Federal Election Commission’s mandate
  • Allowing campaign funds for personal expenditures, such as health insurance or dependent/child care. I think I understand the intent with this provision, as it provides additional support for low-income candidates and seems to be strictly limited under existing campaign finance law.

However, the ACLU has written a thoughtful and highly critical letter expressing why they oppose the bill. After some digging, this is the only prominent liberal organization or media outlet I’ve found openly opposing the bill, based on specific provisions.

Much of the ACLU’s criticism stems from the bill’s overly broad language regarding the disclosure of private donors and how they are to be associated with a given political campaign. For example, ads from an advocacy organization would be required to disclose their top donors’ names, even if those donors do not support the contents of that specific ad.

I recommend anyone interested in this bill read the ACLU’s letter. In addition to election reform, the bill includes language for seemingly unrelated policies, such as provisional support for DC statehood.

I don’t oppose DC statehood in a vacuum, but why include it here?

My personal problem with the “For the People Act” is that it tries to force through a ton of sweeping policy changes–it’s a 500+ page document–when there has been little debate over its contents, even after the fact.

The bill won’t see the light of day in the Senate. Although conservative groups are harping on their usual talking points, like federal electioneering law taking precedence over state law, I think this bill needs some room to breathe before it’s passed into law.

Steve D

References:

American Civil Liberties Union, “ACLU Letter to House Rules Committee on H.R 1,” March 1, 2019, https://www.aclu.org/letter/aclu-letter-house-rules-committee-hr-1

Institute for Free Speech, “Letter to U.S. House of Representatives in Opposition to H.R. 1,” March 6, 2019, https://www.ifs.org/expert-analysis/letter-to-u-s-house-of-representatives-in-opposition-to-h-r-1/

Roll Call, “10 things you might not know about HR 1,” https://www.rollcall.com/news/10-provisions-might-not-know-hr-1

2 thoughts on “ACLU does not Support Current “For the People Act” on Voting Rights

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