Member organizations of the Declaration for American Democracy coalition issued calls for President Biden to state his continued commitment to transforming our democracy as part of his upcoming Joint Address to Congress on April 28, 2021.
We urge President Biden to continue to make progress towards his promise of actualizing policies that create a full, participatory democracy by highlighting in his Joint Address the need to pass the For the People Act. This sweeping package of reforms will get big money out of politics, ensure our freedom to vote, and guarantee that congressional districts are drawn to give fair representation for all.
Member organizations who called on the administration include: Blue Wave Postcard Movement, Center for American Progress, DemCast USA, Democracy Initiative, Demos, Friends of the Earth, Indivisible, People for the American Way, Progressive Turnout Project, and Public Citizen.
In addition, Blue Future, an organization dedicated to building a national youth movement that will inspire, mobilize and invest in young people for a brighter tomorrow, issued an open letter to President Biden to strengthen our democracy, signed by nearly 600 young people across the country.
As the bill continues to advance in the Senate as S.1, now is the time to double down on efforts to realize the true promise of American democracy—a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Recent polling shows that 83% of Americans across the political spectrum say they support the For the People Act. The passage of the For the People Act must be paired with the passage of two other critical bills, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R. 4) and recognizing the District of Columbia as a state (S. 51).
Once the system is un-rigged, the Administration and Congress can finally enact policies on the issues that Americans care most about, like affordable healthcare, a fair minimum wage, clean air and water, racial justice, and so many others.
Highlights from the letters and messages to the administration can be found below:
Blue Future: Open Letter to President Biden from young people nationwide about strengthening our democracy – “During your campaign, you had also expressed support for actualizing policies that create a full, participatory democracy as a first priority in 2021 and beyond. Now is the time to act and build on your long history of fighting to end the dominance of big money in politics and protecting the right to vote by using the bully pulpit of the President to push these reforms forward.”
Blue Wave Postcard Movement: President Biden should state his continued commitment to transforming our democracy and passing the For the People Act in this year’s joint address to Congress – “As President Biden currently confronts a historic set of challenges—carrying us out of a crippling pandemic, rebuilding our economy, advancing racial justice, grappling with climate change, and more—this year’s address at the end of April will serve as a critical moment to chart a new way forward and recommit to democracy reform at the 100-day mark of his administration.”
Center for American Progress: Momentum Grows for Bold Democracy Reform – “Big momentum grows for the For the People Act. And President Biden should continue to help propel this once-in-a-generation legislation forward. One important route: Pres. Biden should use his upcoming address to the joint session of Congress to demand passage.”
Demcast: Biden’s Joint Address Should Include Comprehensive Democracy Reform – “As we all tune in for the State of the Union expected on April 28, we in the grassroots activist community hope that President Biden will make his commitment to transforming our democracy clear. During this unprecedented time, the American people deserve to know that the Biden administration will make the For the People Act a priority.”
Democracy Initiative: President Biden’s Address Must Tackle State of Our Democracy – “Our 75 partner organizations representing 45 million members are united in the understanding that democracy reform is not an end in itself; it is the condition for achieving racial, social, and economic justice and building a better world for us all. The transformational democracy reforms in the For the People Act, together with restoring the Voting Rights Act and granting DC statehood, are required to help pave the way for meaningful progress on racial justice, protecting the climate, workers’ rights, immigration, healthcare, and more… As we all tune in for the president’s address on April 28, our coalition expects President Biden will make his commitment to transforming our democracy clear.”
Demos: To Keep His Promises to the Black Community, Pres. Biden Must Prioritize Building an Inclusive Democracy – “President Biden’s oath to “heal the soul of the nation” is a call for unity. However, this dream for a more unified nation cannot be attained without a just democracy where everyone is truly heard. In his upcoming address to a joint session of Congress, the president must speak to the urgent need to build a more inclusive democracy if he is serious about achieving his other priorities and taking the first step along the path of healing that he desires for the country.”
Friends of the Earth: President Biden should urge passage of the For the People Act in his first State of the Union – “…Progress on every issue that Friends of the Earth works on — from climate change, to sustainable farming, to the clean-up of toxic waste — has been and will be hampered without fundamental reforms to our political system. And our democracy is deeply damaged. We need a political system where all voices can be heard…Our planet depends on it.”
Indivisible: Biden should use his first State of the Union address to commit to passing the For the People Act: “President Biden has already shared his support for the For the People Act on social media and in a press release. But the American people need to hear from him directly. And his first State of the Union address is the perfect opportunity to acknowledge that, although our democracy has taken a series of pretty devastating body blows over the last four years, there is a solution on the horizon. It’s the For the People Act, and Democrats should stop at nothing to get this bill signed into law.”
People for the American Way: President Biden: Include Democracy Reform in Your Upcoming Joint Session Address – “People For the American Way thanks both the president and vice president for taking a strong stand on behalf of H.R. 1, along with the 220 House members who cast their votes in favor of this historic legislation. As attention shifts to the Senate, the administration must continue to send the message that it’s time to get the For the People Act (H.R. 1/S. 1) over the finish line, it having languished for nearly two years in Senator McConnell’s legislative graveyard.”
Progressive Turnout Project: 361 Reasons to Pass the For the People Act (And Counting) – “We urge President Biden to use his April 28 address to make the case for the For the People Act directly to voters. Whatever it takes — yes, including eliminating the filibuster — we must take action now, before it’s too late. Building back better starts with protecting free and fair elections.”
Public Citizen: Biden: Be Vocal on H.R. 1. Now. Our Democracy Can’t Wait! – “The president’s annual joint address to Congress is an American tradition – a seminal moment when the president shares their ideas on solving the nation’s problems and sets course for what must be accomplished in the year ahead….Biden must chart a clear path forward that will restore our faith in democracy. This starts by championing the For the People Act (S.1) during his first State of the Union address and urging its passage.”
What does the For the People Act (H.R. 1) do?
The For the People Act (H.R. 1) is the boldest democracy reform since Watergate.
It’s a massive overhaul of voting, money-in-politics, and ethics laws — all to make our democracy more inclusive.
Gets big money out of politics.
The For the People Act (H.R. 1):
- counters the Citizens United decision
- establishes a voluntary small donor public financing system for House races
- enacts the DISCLOSE Act
- reveals who's funding dark money groups
- strengthens the prohibition on campaign spending by foreign nationals
- enacts the Honest Ads Act
- reveals who's buying online political ads
- enacts the Stand By Every Ad Act
- requires political ad buyers to reveal their top donors and chief officials
- mandates greater transparency from tax-exempt organizations
- requires publicly traded companies to consult with shareholders before spending on politics
- leads to disclosure of contributions by government contractors
- holds presidential inaugural committees accountable
- pilots a voucher program, so voters can contribute to candidates of their choice
- establishes a small donor matching system for Congressional elections
- reforms the presidential public financing program
- empowers more people to run by allowing federal candidates who are not incumbents to use part of their campaign funds for childcare and certain other expenses
- encourages small dollar donations to political party committees
- overhauls the FEC
- cracks down on Super PAC-Candidate coordination
- requires disposal of unused campaign funds
Makes voting simpler, safer, and fairer.
The For the People Act (H.R. 1):
- commits to restore and update the full protections of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) — the most effective civil rights legislation in the history of the United States
- commits to protect and promote Native American voting rights
- ensures access to voting for individuals with disabilities
- supports DC statehood
- supports federal voting rights for Americans living in US territories
- enacts the Redistricting Reform Act of 2019
- bans partisan and racial gerrymandering
- adopts independent redistricting commissions
- combats cyberattacks, election hacking, and disinformation campaigns
- promotes online voter registration in federal elections nationwide
- requires automatic voter registration for federal elections nationwide
- allows same day registration for federal elections nationwide
- prevents voter roll purges
- makes registration deadlines line up with public holidays
- requires USPS to remind movers to update their voter registration
- creates grants to boost youth involvement in election activities
- provide additional state funding to update registration processes
- prohibits interference with voter registration
- standardizes voter registrations across states
- expands pre-registration for future voters currently 16 or older
- prohibits voter caging
- enacts the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act
- restores federal voting rights to those disenfranchised by a prior criminal conviction
- adopt paper ballots
- strengthen provisional balloting
- create a nationwide standard for early voting
- expand opportunities to vote by mail
- protect voting rights for absent military and overseas voters
- provides grants for more poll workers
- enhances enforcement of existing standards
- prevents conflicts of interest with chief state election officials
- allows public universities to become voter registration agencies
- lets students vote where they attend school
- requires a weeks' notice to change polling places
- allows a sworn statement option for voter ID requirements
- makes absentee ballots postage-free
- helps states process absentee ballots
- strengthens voter information support
- standardizes polling place hours of operation
- improves the Election Assistance Commission
- funds election security upgrades
- increases communication about threats to state election systems
Holds public officials accountable.
The For the People Act (H.R. 1):
- requires sitting presidents, vice presidents, and major-party candidates for those offices to disclose their tax returns
- requires a code of ethics for the United States Supreme Court
- updates and enforces the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)
- increases federal lobbying disclosure requirements
- requires presidential appointees to recuse themselves from government matters to which the president or their spouse is a party
- ensures easy public access to lobbying information
- requires the president and vice president to divest from any personal financial holdings that could pose a conflict of interest with their official duties
- demands transparency for White House ethics waivers
- strengthen ethics enforcement in the executive branch
- requires more disclosure of political donations and fundraising by cabinet members and other senior appointees
- makes presidents-elect adopt and enforce ethics rules for their transition teams
- requires all senior executive branch appointees to take an ethics pledge
- restricts travel on private aircraft by cabinet members and other senior appointees
- makes Members of Congress pay any awards or settlements in connection to claims of workplace harassment
- prohibits House members from serving on the boards of for-profit companies
- bars Members of Congress and staff from trying to make laws to make themselves rich
- requires candidates to disclose if they get donations from registered lobbyists
- creates a searchable, public online portal for all reports to Congress
- requires reporting of outside compensation for congressional staff
What is the Declaration for American Democracy?
A Coalition of 200+ Member Organizations
Our coalition includes groups from the labor, racial justice, faith, women’s rights, environmental, good government, and many other important communities. Formed in 2018, we set out on a mission to take back our democracy and restore power to the people. We believe that we must build a democracy where everyone participates, every vote is counted, and everyone’s voice is heard.
To learn more about how democracy reform is critical to achieving progress on the issues voters care about most, read our report: Fixing Our Broken Democracy.
Together we must build a democracy where everyone participates, every vote is counted, voting rights are fully enforced, and everyone’s voice is heard. We deserve to have a say in decisions that affect our lives, and to be fairly represented by elected officials who are responsive to our needs in order to make our lives better.
Today our system is in crisis. Powerful corporate and wealthy interests regularly defy the foundational principles of fairness, equity, ethics, accountability, and respect for the rule of law, and we are heading towards an impending constitutional catastrophe. Some states are passing laws that make it harder for voters, particularly minority voters, to gain access to the ballot. Long-standing voluntary standards that created a framework for some executive branch accountability are no longer enough to forestall corruption, and our current system of laws is inadequate. It is with a backdrop of Congressional paralysis and increasing contempt for democratic values that we reaffirm the need for real momentous democracy reform.
We know that from calamity, opportunities arise – as does the chance to collectively build the democracy we demand and deserve.
The Declaration for American Democracy has formed with a commitment to create and pass a series of fundamental reforms to rebalance our moneyed political system, empower everyday Americans, ensure equal justice for all, protect the public’s right to know, reduce barriers to participation in our elections, vigorously enforce voting laws, and fix our ethics laws. We will not be satisfied with any single reform, and will continue to press for the structural changes necessary to rebalance power for people. We will not accept anything less than a strong democratic system that reflects, responds to, and represents us.
Our democracy is in crisis. Each day brings more news of corruption, voter suppression, and shocking lawlessness at the highest levels of our government. Basic transparency and routine oversight are stymied at every turn. Corporations and wealthy interests pay top dollar, often anonymously, to influence elections and lobby officials, drowning out the voices of everyday voters. Instead of taking steps to secure our elections, the President of the United States is inviting – demanding, even – that foreign governments interfere in the 2020 election. Americans are feeling, with good reason, that our democracy is broken.
But there is hope for change.
In March 2019, the Declaration For American Democracy worked collectively to help ensure the U.S. House passed the groundbreaking reforms in the For the People Act (H.R.1), and introduced the Senate Companion S.949, with every single Democrat signed on.
The For the People Act contains three main pillars:
- Ensuring all Americans can have their voices heard by reforming our voting and election laws by strengthening election security, ending partisan gerrymandering, and enacting automatic voter registration;
- Getting big money out of politics by creating a new small-donor matching funds system for federal candidates, requiring super PACs and “dark money” political organizations to make their donors public, and strengthening oversight rules to ensure those who break our campaign finance laws are held accountable; and
- Ending corruption and holding public officials accountable by expanding conflict-of-interest laws, banning members of Congress from serving on corporate boards, and requiring major party presidential candidates to publicly disclose their tax returns.
The Declaration for American Democracy also contributed to the fight to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R.4) through the House in December 2019. The Voting Rights Advancement Act seeks to restore critical provisions of the Voting Rights Act (1965), which was gutted in the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. For decades these provisions had protected voters in states with histories of pernicious voting discrimination. This decision gave state lawmakers license to suppress the vote of communities of color without significant risk of legal challenges