Democratic House’s First Step: Voting Rights

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Photo credit: WhoWhatWhy

After winning back control of the House, many are wondering whether Democrats will legislate or investigate when they take control next January.

According to a recent report, Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) first legislative item will be a bill to “strengthen democracy at home.” Pelosi is once again vying to become speaker of the House but is facing some opposition.

The proposed bill includes, among others, provisions to bolster ethics laws and limit the influence of money in politics.

Voting rights, notably, will make an appearance as well. Building on the momentum of widespread public support from ballot initiatives during the recent election, Democrats are seeking to codify some of the more popular voting rights reforms nationwide.

Specifically, Democrats are seeking to establish automatic voter registration nationally. That would mean that any time a citizen switches addresses, the state’s DMV would automatically register him or her at the new address.

The proposed bill also includes language to overturn two Supreme Court cases — 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder and 2010’s Citizens United v. FEC.  

The Shelby County decision stripped a key provision from the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which effectively limited federal election oversight of states with a history of racial discrimination. The Citizens United decision overturned corporate spending restrictions on elections.

Can the bill pass? In the House, yes, but in the Republican-majority Senate, probably not. Even if the bill manages to squeeze by in the Senate, the votes to override a presidential veto are not present. The best hope for Democrats may lie in the possibility of including these provisions in a larger, must-pass legislative bill.

Whether it passes or not, the bill signals legislative priorities for House Democrats in upcoming sessions.

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