WASHINGTON -- The recent Democracy Spring protests in which 1,400 activists were arrested this month have prompted nearly 100 members of Congress to call for hearings on voting rights and campaign finance reform legislation.
Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), a leading proponent of campaign finance reform in Congress, organized fellow Democratic lawmakers to send a letter to the Committee on House Administration and to the House Judiciary Committee, asking them to hold hearings on five pieces of legislation: the Voter Empowerment Act, Government By The People Act, Democracy for All Amendment, Automatic Voter Registration Act and Voting Rights Advancement Act. The measures are intended to create a public financing system for congressional elections, overturn Citizens United v. FEC and other campaign finance-related court decisions, and expand voting rights.
In recent years, Republicans have staunchly opposed campaign finance reform. They have also advanced legislation at the state level to make voting more difficult while refusing to update the 1965 Voting Rights Act after it was gutted by the conservative Supreme Court majority in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision.
The Democratic lawmakers reference these changes in their letter, which was published on Thursday. "The two basic imperatives of a functioning democracy -- the right to vote and the right to have your vote mean something -- are under assault,” the letter reads. “Spurred by the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, partisan operatives in state legislatures are crafting new ways to limit Americans access to the ballot box. At the same time, the corrosive effect of big money on our political system -- an effect exacerbated by the Citizens United decision -- has left many Americans wondering whether their ballots can ever compete against the power of a privileged few.”
A release sent out by Sarbanes’ office notes, “The letter came shortly after thousands of people from all over the country joined each other on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to call on Congress to fight big money in politics and return to a government of by and for the people.”
Read the letter below: