One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a vibrant and responsive representative democracy.
The founders of the United States embedded in our Constitution the revolutionary idea we are a government of the people, for the people, by the people. Representative democracy works when citizens elect representatives and hold their representatives accountable at the next election. This is how a democratic republic remains responsive to its citizens.
A Pew Research report from February of 2020 found 74% of Americans believe that their elected representatives in Congress don’t care what their constituents think and put their own interests first. Extreme partisanship and big money in our elections and legislative process have weakened our democracy. While polls from the Campaign Legal Center and Pew Research show that over 70% of the American public favor ending partisan gerrymandering and limiting election spending, nothing has been done. Our government should respond to the will of the people, not the interests of powerful corporations and wealthy donors.
How do we reclaim our democracy? The “For the People Act” (H.R. 1), that just passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is now in the U.S. Senate as S. 1, offers sweeping reform to restore control of our democracy to the people.
The act establishes a baseline that ensures access to the vote in every state across the country. Reforms include same-day registration and automatic voter registration to help ensure access to voter registration and provisions for early voting and absentee ballots to ensure access to vote. The act also requires paper ballots to ensure that election results can be verified. These reforms are not new; they have been tried and tested at the state and local level, including many here in Montana.
The act reduces the influence of money in politics by including strong provisions for transparency in campaign finance and stronger government ethics enforcement. It requires independent redistricting commissions to reduce partisanship gerrymandering, ends voter roll purges based on failure to vote, and restores the Voting Rights Act.
The League of Women Voters is proud to support the For the People Act. The act will improve American elections, making our election system more free, fair, and accessible to all eligible citizens. The League worked behind the scenes to influence the language of the bill, including a push to include same-day registration. The League is encouraged by the extraordinary and comprehensive reforms in the For the People Act that are good for all U.S. citizens and deserve bipartisan support.
We invite you to learn more about the For the People Act and how it would help restore our representative democracy nationwide as well as in Montana. The League of Women Voters of Montana is hosting a webinar, “Revitalizing Democracy with For the People Act,” on April 29 at 7 p.m. featuring presentations from two national experts from the Brennan Center for Justice:
• Elizabeth Hira, Spitzer Fellow and policy counsel, speaking on voting rights reform, elections and equality; and
• Dan Weiner, deputy director for election reform, speaking on money in politics and gerrymandering.
Their presentations will be followed by a panel discussion about voting and elections in Montana.
To register for this free webinar on the For the People Act, go to our website: my.lwv.org/montana. Join us on April 29 to learn more about the For the People Act.
Nancy Leifer is president of the League of Women Voters Montana. Brenda Desmond is co-president of the League of Women Voters Missoula.