House Democrats unveiled details of a sweeping federal elections reform package Friday that, if enacted, would immediately restore voting rights to convicted felons who have completed their prison sentences nationwide.
The bill, titled the “For the People Act,” would also mandate automatic voter registration nationwide for eligible voters that provide information to state government agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The act “makes automatic voter registration a mandate nationwide — not just in certain states or in certain counties — but nationwide,” Rep. John Lewis of Georgia said at a news conference announcing the bill Friday. “We must get there, and we will get there, as Democrats.”
“It restores voting rights to felons who paid their debt to society,” Lewis added.
.@HouseDemocrats are keeping our promise to the American people & unveiling #HR1, the #ForThePeople Act, a historic reform package to restore the promise of our democracy, end Washington’s culture of corruption, & reduce the role of money in our politics. https://t.co/vBMx8bQb1T
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 4, 2019
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The package was introduced Thursday by Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland and co-sponsored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
It also includes a measure that would require sitting presidents and vice presidents, in addition to presidential and vice presidential candidates, to release 10 years of personal tax returns.
The bill will “strengthen our democracy and return political power to the people by making it easier, not harder, to vote, ending the dominance of big money in our politics and ensuring that public officials actually serve the public,” Sarbanes said Thursday.
The bill holds that “the right of an individual who is a citizen of the United States to vote in any election for Federal office shall not be denied or abridged because that individual has been convicted of a criminal offense.”
Convicted felons who have served their sentence or are sentenced to serve “only a term of probation” would have their voting rights restored, but those incarcerated at the time of an election would be barred from voting.
Convicted felons would be able to vote “in any election for Federal office held after the date of the enactment of this Act,” were it to be signed into law.
The proposal was welcomed with open arms by the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice, a law policy institute that focuses on voting rights and campaign finance reform.
“The Brennan Center for Justice fully supports voting rights restoration for formerly incarcerated people who have past felony convictions,” Brennan Center spokeswoman Alexandra Ringe told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The proposal came less than two months after Florida voters elected to restore voting rights to nearly 1.5 million convicted felons.
Pelosi committed to pushing the entire reform package through the House during a news conference Friday.
“We are introducing H.R. 1 to … clean up corruption and restore integrity to government,” she said. “We put power back into the hands of the people.”
“(W)e will have the complete H.R. 1 passed by the House of Representatives with the knowledge, transparency that the American people will know that this is an option that the House has given the Senate of the United States and the President of the United States to take action in support of the American people,” Pelosi said.