March 18, 2021

Duckworth, Durbin, Colleagues Introduce For the People Act to Strengthen Democracy


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined their colleagues in introducing S.1., the For the People Act—a sweeping package of comprehensive reforms that would end special interest corruption of our politics and make government work for the people. The introduction comes as Republican lawmakers in 43 states continue to use unfounded election conspiracies regarding the 2020 presidential election to push to restrict Americans’ access to the ballot box—with a disproportionate impact on Black and Brown Americans. According to a recent report from the Brennan Center, at least 253 bills to restrict voting have been introduced around the country.

The landmark legislation—companion legislation to H.R. 1, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 3—aims to restore the promise of American democracy by guaranteeing every American citizen full access to the ballot by addressing voter intimidation and suppression, which are among the biggest examples of systemic racism in America; ending the corrupting power of dark money in our campaigns; and putting an end to gerrymandering. In addition, it strengthens ethics laws to ensure that public servants work for the public interest.

“Expanding voting rights, getting big money out of our politics and strengthening our anti-corruption laws are all common-sense reforms needed to restore trust in our elections and our government,” Duckworth said. “As many states continue and even supercharge efforts to restrict voting rights—especially for Black and Brown Americans—we need to be doing all that we can to protect every American’s right to vote, so I’m proud to help introduce the For the People Act”

“There is an effort underway in more than 40 states to restrict the right to vote, including by limiting mail-in ballots and early voting opportunities. We should be making it easier for people to vote, not harder. That is why it’s so important for the Senate to pass the For The People Act.  This critical legislation will also help fix our broken campaign finance system and enhance ethics and transparency requirements for government officials. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance these crucial reforms,” said Durbin.

A section-by-section summary of the legislation is available here. A list of organizations supporting the legislation is available here.  A myth-busting fact sheet about the bill and Republican narratives of “voter fraud” is available here.

The For the People Act would:

Make It Easier, Not Harder, To Vote

  • Improve Access and Secure Voting Rights – Expands access to the ballot box by taking aim at institutional barriers to voting, such as cumbersome registration systems, limited voting hours and many other roadblocks. The bill creates automatic voter registration across the country, ensures that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full rights restored, expands voting by mail, promotes early voting and online voter registration, and modernizes the U.S. voting system. The legislation also incorporates the lessons learned from safe and accessible voting in the 2020 election, expanding access for students, elderly Americans and Native Americans, expanding cure opportunities for states that require signature match, provides funding for absentee ballot tracking and sets standards for ballot drop boxes.
  • Promote Integrity – Fights back against the assault on voting rights by reaffirming Congress’s commitment to restoring the Voting Rights Act, prohibiting voter roll purges like those seen in Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere, and ensuring that discriminatory voter ID laws do not prevent Americans citizens from exercising their rights.
  • Bolster Election Security – Ensures that American elections are decided by American voters without interference by foreign adversaries. The bill creates a national strategy to protect our democratic institutions, increases oversight over election vendors, and enhances federal support for state voting system security upgrades, including paper ballot voting systems.

End The Dominance of Big Money In Politics

  • Guarantee Disclosure – Shines a light on dark money in politics by requiring all political organizations to disclose their donors, which will break the nesting-doll system that allows big-money contributors and special interests to hide their spending in networks of so-called “social welfare” organizations; expands “Stand By Your Ad” provisions; and harmonizes internet disclosure rules with existing broadcast rules.
  • Empower Citizens – Builds a 21st-century campaign finance system to increase the power of small donors, reaffirms Congress’s authority to regulate money in politics, and pushes back against Citizens United. This bill levels the political playing field for everyday Americans, creating a multiple matching system for small donations—funded by fines on corporate malfeasance—and allowing the American people to exercise their due influence in a post-Citizens United world, while reaffirming that Congress should have the authority to regulate money in politics. The new system of citizen-owned elections will break special interests’ stranglehold on Congress and the White House and lay the groundwork for an agenda that serves the American people.
  • Strengthen Oversight – Repairs and restructures the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to break gridlock and enhance enforcement mechanisms, tightens rules on super PACs, and repeals policy riders that block sensible disclosure measures.
  • Prevent Foreign Interference – Incorporates lessons learned from preventing foreign interference in the 2020 election, which includes restricting the exchange of information between candidates and foreign governments, a ban on foreign lobbying, and prohibiting the establishment of corporations to conceal election contributions and donations by foreign nationals.

People Should Choose their Politicians, Not the Other Way Around

  • End partisan gerrymandering – Prevents politicians from picking their voters and ensures that state and congressional districts are not drawn with surgical precision to benefit a political party or specific politician, by requiring states to adopt independent redistricting commissions.

Ensure Public Officials Work For The Public Interest

  • Fortify Ethics Laws and Slow the Revolving Door – Breaks the influence of special interests in Washington and increases accountability by expanding conflict of interest law and divestment requirements, slows the revolving door, prohibits members of Congress from serving on for-profit corporate boards, limits first class travel for government officials, ends taxpayer-financed settlements for officeholders, and requires the President, Vice President, and candidates for those offices to disclose their tax returns.
  • Impose Greater Ethics Enforcement – Gives teeth to federal ethics oversight by overhauling the Office of Government Ethics, requires the Supreme Court to create a new ethical code, and closes registration loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents.

In addition to Duckworth and Durbin, the following Senators introduced the bill:   U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR),  Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Charles Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Gary Peters (D-MI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Angus King (I-ME), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jon Tester (D-MT), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Jon Ossoff (D-GA).