Cunningham: For the People Act

Voting is a crucial part of our democracy. Cunningham evaluates the For The People Act, which would grant wider-reaching voting rights if implemented. - Photo via

In Article 1 Section 4 of the United States Constitution, where the right to elect representatives and senators is written, it further reads “but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations.” The time is now to put pressure on our representatives to pass the For The People Act or H.R/S.R 1.

In recent years, voter participation has seen unprecedented turnouts, both in the recent 2020 election and the 2018 midterms. In comparison to other nations, the United States, a constitutional republic with a representative democracy that prides itself on its unique application of these principles, still trails behind many other developed nations in both areas of percentage of the voting eligible population and the percentage that are registered (it ranks 30 out of 35).

This doesn’t even touch on the issues America has with outdated voter registration standards, and subtle but impactful restriction on the right to vote. We’ve also seen issues with foreign interference, campaign financing, big money in politics and gerrymandering. These issues require massive, wide reaching legislation that corrects all of this. The For The People Act seeks to address every bit of this. 

The bill is massive and is broken into three main parts relating to voting rights, campaign finance and ethical reforms for the federal government at large. Public perception is highly favorable across party lines; one survey of over 1,100 likely voters found a majority of all voters are in favor of this bill. While party breakdown shows very minute trends of party alignment, much of the bill calls for reforms that many Americans share grievances over. In fact, the contents of this bill seem to be evading the polarization process where bills are almost immediately supported or rejected by each of the two major political parties.

This can be explained partially as “common sense.” For example, third party redistricting of congressional districts would strip the power of the incumbent party who presently decides congressional zoning boundaries. Giving the incumbent power to redraw districts is bound to favor them over the other. But a third party would account for this bias.

Second, I see modernizing the voting process as vital to the future of democracy; measures such as online registration, early voting at the federal level, guaranteeing the voting rights of felons who have finished their sentences and banning inactive voter role purging. And one of the most impactful: a registration opt-out measure. For one, these principles ensure that our democracy includes an element of public participation. If we want representatives to actually represent us, our participation is vital. It’s measures like this that ensure principles founded in our constitution are brought to life, and applied in practice; not just pretty ideas for the sake of pretty ideas. It makes certain that voting is straightforward, safe and easy to partake in.

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the For The People Act. Campaign finance and ethical reforms to the federal government are covered extensively through the bill. A lengthy but slightly more palatable version is outlined by the Brennan Center. And better yet, Un-PAC is an organization looking to mobilize our part in passing this bill. Un-PAC prides itself in being “the PAC to end all PACs.” It’s made up of students and young people organizing and volunteering to put pressure on politicians to pass this bill.

It’s tight, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., still on the fence or against the bill, along with the Senate filibuster which might sabotage its shot for life. But that does not mean we can’t influence these politicians by applying enough pressure for them to cave in. If you’re at all interested in being a part of this force, message @rowanprogs on Instagram or Twitter for more information.

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