While congressional Republicans remain overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, opposed to the For the People Act, a new survey found strong bipartisan backing for the wide-ranging bill that would set new standards for elections.
The survey — conducted by Data for Progress, a progressive think tank and polling firm, for Vox — found that 69 percent of Americans strongly or somewhat support the bill when told it would "make it easier to vote, limit the influence of money in politics, and require congressional districts to be drawn by a non-partisan commission so that no one party has an advantage." That breaks down as 85 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of independents and 52 percent of Republicans. (Note that voter ID and so-called ballot harvesting, among the most partisan elements of election administration, were not mentioned.)
No Republican voted in favor of the bill, also known as HR 1, when Democrats pushed it through the House of Representatives, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans have vowed to block its passage in the Senate. Republicans say the legislation would damage election security while Democrats claim it would make elections more fair.
Pollsters broke the bill down into a handful of its major components to gauge support for individual provisions, some of which were heavily backed by all three political groupings. For example, limiting the influence of money in politics was supported by 86 percent of Democrats, 87 percent of independents and 80 percent of Republicans. Modernizing election infrastructure to increase security had similar numbers (90/83/77), as did preventing foreign interference in elections (85/82/82).
Support for a 15-day early voting period and nonpartisan redistricting commissions both received more than 50 percent support across all three categories as well.
A handful of other proposals did not crack 50 percent among Republicans.
- Automatic voter registration: 81 percent Democrats, 59 percent independents, 44 percent Republicans.
- Same-day voter registration for eligible voters: 84/49/49.
- A vote-by-mail option for all voters: 84/64/38.
- Restoring voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences: 72/54/39.
- Limiting voter roll purges: 73/51/48.
Again, voter ID and collecting ballots on behalf of voters were not among the topics queried.
The pollsters also asked respondents about replacing the current system of drawing congressional districts with a proportional representation system in which each state's U.S. House delegation would be based on the statewide vote share. Just over half of all respondents said they would support such a system, including 63 percent of Democrats, 50 percent of independents and 41 percent of Republicans.
But when more context was added to the question, opinions shifted.
In one version, respondents were told: "Some lawmakers in Congress are considering changing Senate procedure to allow for this proposal to pass with 51 votes, rather than 60 votes, meaning Democrats could pass the bill without support from Republicans." Asked how they felt about changing Senate procedures to pass the bill, overall support dropped 4 points to 47 percent. Democratic support rose, while backing among Republicans and independents dropped significantly.
In another question about the proportional representation plan, questioners said, "Supporters of this say we should create these standards so that everyone's vote can count equally and no one party has an advantage over the other in drawing district lines, making our elections fairer. Opponents of this say that it is a power grab by politicians who want to pick their voters rather than the other way around."
When faced with this language, 70 percent of Democrats voiced support, as did 50 percent of independents. But only a third of Republicans backed the proposal.
The survey was conducted April 16-19 of 1,138 likely voters with a margin of error of 3 percentage points. See the full results here.
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Three in five Americans believe it's more important to ensure that all voters get to vote than it is to make sure nobody who's ineligible casts a ballot, a new poll finds, although there's an enormous partisan split on those priorities.
The same survey, however, revealed a solidly bipartisan degree of confidence among three-quarters of Americans that elections in their own states are being run fairly and securely.
The results, out Tuesday from NBC News, are the latest evidence of the complex and sometimes polarized views the electorate holds about the bedrock institution of democracy.
While 87 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents say "making sure that everyone who wants to vote can do so" is a top priority, 77 percent of Republicans say "making sure that no one votes who is not eligible to vote" is more important.
That fundamental disagreement, of course, reflects the continued partisan divide over the integrity of the 2020 election, fueled by the unprecedented and unfounded allegations by Donald Trump that his second term as president was stolen by fraud. His false allegations have fueled the drive by Republican legislators around the country to enact stricter voting laws that Democrats see as designed to suppress the vote — particularly targeting people of color.
As those bills keep advancing, though, 59 percent of Republicans — along with 85 percent of Democrats and 81 percent of independents — say they are confident their states can already administer elections where everyone eligible may cast a ballot and the results are tabulated accurately.
But the poll did reveal a sharp GOP split based on where people live. In states Trump carried, 76 percent of Republicans view their own elections as free and fair. In states carried by President Biden, that same number plunged to 39 percent.
The poll was conducted by telephone April 17-20 and has a 3.1 percentage point margin of error.
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Much of the efforts to change the way states conduct elections, in the wake of last year's pandemic-era voting, are being done in favor of one major party or the other. Democrats are pushing voting expansions, while Republicans are backing restrictions.
But election reform advocates say it doesn't have to be this way. The Bipartisan Policy Center released a report this week in the hopes of cutting through the partisan noise. The new report details a dozen bipartisan recommendations for improving the voting process moving forward.
While election security experts have repeatedly confirmed that the 2020 election was the most secure in American history, the report says there are still many ways to streamline the voting process, bolster voter confidence and increase election security.
Because many of the changes implemented for the 2020 election were done quickly and at the last minute, a number of these recommendations emphasize the timing of passing and implementing new election rules. The policy proposals also underscore the importance of communicating any changes to voters.
"Some changes to the process are necessary and inevitable, but policymakers have fallen into a dangerous and unrelenting cycle of regaining interest in election administration only in the lead-up to major elections," the report says.
Here are the 12 policy recommendations curated by BPC's task force of 28 state and local election officials:
- "States should plan to enact legislative or administrative changes to standing election procedures outside the 90-day window before a general election."
- "Challenges to standing election procedures within 90 days of an election should be considered by courts only for future elections."
- "Courts should consider challenges to the merits of election administration changes in an election year on an expedited basis."
- "No later than 60 days before an election, counties and states should produce and publicly display detailed observation procedures for the voting process, ballot reconciliation and canvass, recounts, and audits."
- "States should create emergency election procedures that include contingencies for weather, terrorism, or other disasters."
- "States should require local election offices to develop emergency election procedures and submit them to the state for review and coordination."
- "States should mandate voting systems that produce voter-verifiable paper ballots. The voter-verifiable ballot should be the ballot of record for any audit or recount."
- "States should standardize and simplify ballot return deadlines. Local and state officials should conduct vigorous voter communication efforts to educate voters about return deadlines."
- "States should expand the options for the return of vote-by-mail ballots to include secure drop boxes."
- "Voters should have the option of voting early and in-person for a period of at least seven days in advance of a federal election. States should provide a balance of early, mail, and Election Day voting options that are informed by voter behavior."
- "States should codify a detailed certification timeline that includes all fundamental requirements and deadlines while thoughtfully balancing the amount of time devoted to state versus local responsibilities. County certification deadlines should be set no earlier than 14 days after a general election to provide time to complete precertification tasks."
- "Threats against election officials and all permanent and temporary elections staff should be taken seriously by policymakers and law enforcement. These offenses should be punishable by penalties equivalent to those assessed for threats against other public employees carrying out their official duties."
While these recommendations are not the only bipartisan solutions out there, BPC's report says they would be good starting points for bolstering the election ecosystem. The report urges state lawmakers to work across the aisle to implement changes that would fortify election security and improve the voting process, without overburdening local election administrators.
"The election process transcends politics and demands reforms that are in the best interest of all Americans, regardless of party," the report says.
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An expensive and aggressive lobbying step was taken Monday on the uphill climb for HR 1, the congressional Democrats' catchall package for assuring that voting gets easier and governance becomes more fair and ethical.
A pair of progressive organizations announced they will spend $30 million on television and digital advertising, direct lobbying, and creating grassroots pressure on the Senate. Part of the effort is to coordinate with other democracy reform groups to build momentum for what could become one of the most consequential victories over voter suppression since the 1960s.
The legislation's paramount obstacle is unified Republican opposition magnified by the filibuster, which is supposed to help democracy by giving the political minority influence but has also made partisan deadlock the norm. Advocates of HR 1 assert that, if there's ever a moment to confront the filibuster's perverse consequences, it's to pass a measure designed to resuscitate democracy itself.
So far, that argument has not proved persuasive to the two Democratic senators who have publicly committed to retaining the de facto 60-vote requirement for passing most bills, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Some of the money in the new campaign — run by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and End Citizens United's Let America Vote Action Fund — will surely be allocated in an effort to woo them. The organizations say they will run ads in at least a dozen states and finance organizers to target both Democratic and Republican centrist senators in six of them.
But Manchin and Sinema by themselves have the power to preserve the status quo by siding with the 50 Republicans, who deride the Democrats' democracy bill as an electoral power grab in the guise of reform — and are keen to preserve their biggest tool to combat (or else compel bargaining with) President Biden and his fellow Democrats now in control of the Capitol.
It is not yet clear the Senate's consideration of HR 1 will be the venue for deciding the filibuster's future. Democratic leaders are contemplating several modifications that would make the weapon more difficult to deploy but not eliminate it altogether. While gauging support for those, over the next few weeks they intend to focus on legislation with at least a hope of bipartisan support — on infrastructure and China, for example — in part to test the willingness of the GOP to collaborate.
In addition, Democrats say they want to put the democracy reform package through something of a normal legislative process. That means hearings and a committee debate before a climactic vote on the Senate floor. But the Senate companion bill, dubbed S 1 by the Democrats for similar symbolic impact, has not yet been formally introduced, and the first hearing is not expected before next week
The bill, which the House passed two weeks ago on almost pure party lines, has gained significantly more public attention than when it was first deliberated two years ago. That's mainly because the Democrats have started marketing it principally as a voting rights package that would countermand the extraordinary efforts in almost two-dozen Republican-run states to make casting a ballot much more difficult than in 2020.
To be sure, the measure is packed with provisions designed to make voting equally easy no matter where people live — even if that means reversing a wave of new restrictive state laws unmatched since the Jim Crow era.
The bill would require the minority of states that don't already do so, for example, to allow no-excuse absentee voting as well as at least 15 days of in-person voting before Election Day. And it would nationalize online registration, same-day registration for federal elections and automatic registration of eligible voters when they do business with their state agencies — practices not in effect in about a quarter of the states.
It would restrict how states cull, or purge, their voters rolls and make the Postal Service help people re-register to vote when they change their addresses. It would require states give at least a week's notice before changing a polling place location — and assure the average wait times for voting are less than half an hour.
But the new campaign is being spearheaded by groups that have until now been more keenly interested in other aspects of the sprawling package.
End Citizens United is a prominent voice for limiting big money in politics, and so has been primarily focused on language that would create a system of 6-to-1 matching funds for congressional candidates who refuse donations above $1,000 and boost disclosure requirements for politically active advocacy groups.
The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, meanwhile, has mainly focused on the provision turning all congressional redistricting over to politically independent commissions in each state — on the assumption that partisan demographics will put most of the cartography in GOP hands for the foreseeable future.
But the bill's reach extends even further, from ensuring felons could vote after release from prison, to beefing up election cybersecurity, to establishing ethics codes for Supreme Court justices, the president and other executive branch officials.
"This historic investment will harness the grassroots energy for unrigging the system in Washington to make it work for everyone, not just those on top, and will make it clear to the Senate that we must pass this bill," said the announcement by the two groups, who recently released polling they commissioned finding 83 percent support for the bill.
"This is a power grab" by the Democrats, GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said Sunday on Fox News. "It's that simple. They want to install a permanent partisan majority in the United States when it comes to voting in elections."
To be sure, nationwide easements of access to the polls would increase participation, especially by minority voters who disproportionately lean Democratic.
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