After decades of erosion by corporate and plutocratic interests and the battering ram that was the Donald Trump presidency, a new poll Friday suggests the democratic ideals enshrined in the landmark For the People Act enjoy broad support across the political spectrum.
"The most important parts give candidates a realistic chance to fund campaigns with small contributions only. That could liberate Congress from special interest funding."
Harvard Law School
Originally passed by the House of Representatives in 2019 but torpedoed by the Republican-controlled Senate, the For the People Act (pdf) would expand voting rights including for former felons, curtail partisan gerrymandering, strengthen ethics rules, limit money in politics and implement the DISCLOSE Act, and make Washington, D.C. a state—among other reforms.
The new survey, conducted by the left-leaning think tank Data for Progress and the advocacy group Equal Citizens, found a majority of self-described Democrats, Republicans, and independents support the For the People Act. Respondents were given the following information:
The For the People Act has been introduced in Congress. Supporters of the bill say it would limit the influence of big money in politics by empowering small donors, make voting easier and more secure, end gerrymandering, and give the public more information about who is lobbying our government. Opponents say it would be an overreach by the federal government and that states should control their own elections. Do you support or oppose the For The People Act?
Two-thirds, or 67%, of respondents answered affirmatively, including 77% of Democratic voters, 56% of Republicans, and 68% of independents. More than one-third (35%) of Democratic voters and 25% of Republicans "strongly support" the bill, while only 4% of Democrats and 11% of Republicans said they "strongly oppose" it.
Restoring democracy isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s the popular thing to do.
— Mondaire Jones (@MondaireJones) January 22, 2021
The original For the People Act was written by the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.). Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said it will be the very first bill they introduce in the current congressional session.
"From a violent insurrection at the Capitol to the countless attempts to silence the vote of millions of Americans, attacks on our democracy have come in many forms," said Schumer on Tuesday. "Senate Democrats are committed to advancing real solutions and fighting to uphold the core tenets of our constitution, which is why we are announcing today that the first bill of the new Congress will be the For the People Act."
Despite controlling both chambers of Congress, based on current rules at least 10 Senate Republicans will need to support holding a vote for the bill in order to avoid a filibuster. A flood of progressive voices and groups, including Justice Democrats and the Sunrise Movement, have recently urged Senate Democrats to eliminate the filibuster, which could be accomplished by a simple majority vote.
Democrats have established campaign finance reform as a top priority in 2021—the For the People Act aims to tackle corporate influence, “dark money,” foreign attempts to influence American elections and voter suppression practices.https://t.co/HXulWGibzl
— OpenSecrets.org (@OpenSecretsDC) January 22, 2021
Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School and expert on campaign finance, calls the For the People Act "an incredibly important piece of comprehensive democracy reform."
"In my view, the most important parts give candidates a realistic chance to fund campaigns with small contributions only," Lessig told OpenSecrets. "That could liberate Congress from special interest funding."
In addition to broad popular support, the For the People Act is backed by some 180 progressive groups who have formed the Declaration for American Democracy coalition.
Members of the coalition include: the American Federation of Teachers, CodePink, Color of Change, Common Cause, Demand Progress, Greenpeace, Indivisible, the League of Conservation Voters, March for Our Lives, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Progressive Democrats of America, Public Citizen, the Service Employees International Union, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.