The 2019 Democratic Agenda Starts With Democracy

Democrats have taken control of the House, and they want to start 2019 with a bang and an ambitious legislative package that they claim will help defend the integrity of democracy.

While the bill — which they’re hoping will be the first of the legislative session, H.R. 1 — is unlikely to pass the Senate or receive the president’s approval, it’s a bold stroke designed to start a conversation.

Bills like this could be considered “statement legislation,” as they’re designed for performance purposes rather than function. In fact, some provisions of the bill might not even stand up to constitutional scrutiny — especially if it came before the now 5-4 conservative Supreme Court, which has notoriously ruled against democracy in the past. Between Citizens United and Bush v. Gore, the court doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to making sure the American people are heard.

According to Peter Overby at NPR, the bill will include a broad spectrum of policies designed to safeguard and defend democracy. High on the list is automatic voter registration, a cause that’s becoming increasingly popular — so much so that Nevada and Michigan voters both just approved automatic voter registration measures.

Democrats are also concerned about the Voting Rights Act, landmark legislation that has become more difficult to enforce thanks to a 2013 Supreme Court decision.

In addition, the bill would address redistricting, another issue that came up on a number of 2018 ballots. The 2020 Census will set off a new round of redistricting, and voting rights advocates fear this could be used to disenfranchise people. Democratic representatives want to take this power away from partisan legislatures, who have an obvious interest in the outcome, and put it into the hands of independent commissions.

Campaign finance is on the laundry list too: Democrats want to overturn Citizens United and establish checks on campaign finance, as well as enact a more robust public financing option for campaigns.

Maryland’s John Sarbanes is one of the leaders of this initiative, chairing the Democracy Reform Task Force. Sarbanes has been heavily involved with government ethics and campaign finance for the Democrats, and he clearly intends to use their House majority to respond to public calls for action on these issues.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, a favorite in the race for Speaker of the House, has made it clear that “restoring checks and balances” is a priority for the party.

While a copy of the bill isn’t available for public review yet — and it wouldn’t be formally introduced until 2019 anyway — it’s still worth keeping an eye on this topic. This legislation may set a bold political agenda for the Democrats, and as constituents, you have an opportunity to weigh in. While H.R. 1 will likely be more of an intellectual exercise than viable legislation, the issues it brings up and the proposals it makes will be important.

They could also send a cue to states exploring ways to protect elections and the democratic process within their own borders. Many of the broad proposals under discussion are quite sensible, in addition to legally defensible — as illustrated by the growing numbers of states taking up topics like automatic voter registration.

Your state legislature could take an opportunity now to safeguard the voting process in advance of 2020, ensuring that everyone has a chance to vote and that their votes are heard equally.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

69 comments

Peggy B
Peggy B1 months ago

Noted

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Shirley P
Shirley Plowman1 months ago

MUCH HOPE FOR SUCH BETTER DAYS AHEAD AND A CLEAN CARING GOVT AND DEMOCRACY.

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Tabot T
Tabot T1 months ago

Thanks

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hELEN h
hELEN h1 months ago

tyfs

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Mery Christmas Everone Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Mery Christmas Everone Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Mery Christmas Everone Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Mery Christmas Everone Thank you for caring and sharing

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Thanks.

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