Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi was the only Democratic congressperson to vote against H.R. 1 — the recent Democratic bill on election issues and voting laws.
The legislation is called the “For the People Act of 2021” and has reportedly taken precedence over other items on the House Democrats’ agenda. Thompson was one of the co-sponsors on the bill, but he decided against supporting the passing of the legislation because he said that his constituents did not approve of it.
The bill states that it “addresses voter access, election integrity and security, campaign finance, and ethics for the three branches of government. Specifically, the bill expands voter registration (e.g., automatic and same-day registration) and voting access (e.g., vote-by-mail and early voting). It also limits removing voters from voter rolls. The bill requires states to establish independent redistricting commissions to carry out congressional redistricting.”
As reported by Fox News, “the legislation would also enact automatic voter registration, restore voting rights to felons after they have completed their sentences and expand early voting access and absentee voting.”
“My constituents opposed the redistricting portion of the bill as well as the section on public finances,” Thompson said in a statement to Fox News. “I always listen and vote in the interest of my constituents.”
The section on public finances that Thompson referenced would alter how contributions are carried out. If made into law, this bill would reportedly make a 6-to-1 match for each grassroots contribution to a candidate up to $200. A $200 contribution to a candidate for the House of Representatives would result in a $1,200 match in public money. The total amount the candidate would receive would then be $1,400, according to Fox News reporting.
The Washington Times reports, “The proposed system was rebuked from both the right and the left. Republicans said it was an irresponsible use of tax dollars. The far-left, including the Green Party, argued that the thresholds for public funding were too high and would crush opposition from outside the two major parties.”
Fox News reports that the match program would receive funding “by a new 4.75% surcharge on criminal and civil penalties and settlements that corporations pay to the U.S. government.” The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan entity, estimated that this would create about $3.2 billion over a decade.
Another contentious part of the bill has to do with its redistricting portion. It would require states to make “independent redistricting commissions to carry out the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional districts in an effort to avoid partisan gerrymandering. The bill also establishes a new public financing system for congressional and presidential elections to incentivize small-dollar donations.”
Thompson did not support the redistricting concept, either. According to The Washington Times, “Taking redistricting away from elected officials has long been a priority for more progressive members of the Democratic Party. They claim that partisan redistricting makes elections less competitive. Communities of color, however, have pushed back on that assertion, suggesting that independent redistricting would dilute minority voting power.”
The bill passed with no Republican votes, and by a slim margin of 220 to 210. The bill’s name is reportedly a reference to the fact that the complete revamping of the election process is the House Democrats’ number one concern.
H.R. 1 also reportedly seeks to go after wealthy donors and financing in politics by creating more steps for sharing information about donations and political advertising transparency.
The bill will now go to the Senate where it needs 60 votes to pass. Since the Senate only has 50 Democrats, it would need bipartisan support in order to be successful.