Statement from Jana Morgan, Director of the Declaration for American Democracy—a coalition of over 170 organizations from the labor, racial justice, voting rights, faith, environmental, women’s rights, good government, and many other important communities—on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the urgent need to protect the rights of Black voters:
“On Monday we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who spent his life fighting for the liberation of Black people, underprivileged communities, and the working class in the United States to ensure that they had an equal voice in our democracy.
“His leadership guided our country through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and pushed our government toward legislation critical to the equality of Black Americans, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which safeguarded and protected their right to vote and participate in our electoral process.
“Despite that landmark law, Black Americans, as well as other communities that have been marginalized, continue to face harmful and dangerous barriers that have disenfranchised their vote for far too long. In 2013, the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Shelby County v. Holder all but stripped away those protections in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“If we want to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King, our elected officials have to eliminate any barriers to voting once and for all.
Big money in politics also makes it much harder for Black, Brown, and Indigenous people to cultivate political power and advocate for the interests of their communities, and perpetuates the racial and economic inequalities these communities face.
“Congress, right now, can take action by passing legislation that expands and protects the voices of Black voters, including:
- H.R. 1, the For The People Act, a comprehensive reform bill that contains Rep. John Lewis’ Voter Empowerment Act, in Title I of the legislation, expands and protects voting rights and increases transparency and accountability in our government;
- H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, which modernizes and restores the full power of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and,
- H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which provides fair and equal representation in our federal government to the citizens of a majority BIPOC population of over 700,000 people.
“Dr. King literally gave his life so that Black Americans and other communities of color could have equal and fair access to our democracy. We cannot let another year go by without fighting undemocratic and harmful policies that have perpetuated systemic racism for too long.”
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 170+ 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
Our 170+ Member Organizations
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Sign the Petition!
To: The next U.S. President & Congress
From: [Your Name]
In 2021, the next president will have many important issues to address: from combating climate change and gun violence, to overcoming the coronavirus pandemic and dismantling systemic racism in America. But in order for the next administration to do that effectively, we need to build a stronger and more representative democracy.
Read the full petition text here.
In March 2019, the For the People Act (HR 1) passed the House with unanimous support from the Democratic caucus, and is supported by every Democrat in the Senate -- yet the Senate Majority Leader refuses to bring it up for a vote.
The For the People Act is a once-in-a-generation package of proven reforms that would:
- Expand and protect voting rights and access to the ballot;
- Put ordinary Americans ahead of Big Money donors;
- End gerrymandering so that electoral districts are fairly drawn; and
- Clean up government and hold elected officials to the highest ethical standards.
This bill would transform our political system into one that is more inclusive, responsive, and representative of the American people.
The American people are tired of a government that serves only the wealthy and corporate interests. We demand a democracy that works for all of us.
We need a democracy where voters are protected from discrimination and can make themselves heard at the ballot box. A democracy where electoral districts are drawn fairly, so that every voter’s ballot is of equal value. A democracy that isn't bought and paid for by the highest corporate bidder. And a democracy where ordinary Americans -- more women, people of color, and working people -- can run for office without relying on big corporate dollars.
Just imagine what we could accomplish in 2021 and beyond if our government actually worked for us.
Sign your name to show the next administration and Congress that Day 1 is for Democracy. Demand that the For People Act is a first priority of the next administration and Congress.
This petition is sponsored by: Alliance for Youth Action, American Promise, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Common Cause, Daily Kos, DC Vote, Declaration for American Democracy, DemCast USA, Democracy Matters, Free Speech for the People, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, League of Women Voters, Open The Government, People For the American Way, Pride At Work, SMART Elections, Stamp Stampede