Secure, accurate, and fair elections are a cornerstone of American democracy. Democrats and Republicans agree that all citizens deserve transparency and confidence that their vote counts and that illegal votes are not counted. Many Democrats and Republicans also share a growing concern about the outsize influence of special interests and dark money in our elections. So far, Democrats and Republicans do not appear to agree on how to guarantee secure, accurate and fair elections. Republicans are concerned about security from voter fraud. Democrats are worried about voter access, particularly for historically under-represented groups, as well as security from foreign interference.
The Democratic For the People Act passed the House on March 3, 2021, on a 220 – 210 vote with all but one Democrat, and no Republicans, voting for it. As written, the prospects for passing the Senate are very low.
The For the People Act is an ambitious and far reaching bill that includes provisions to make it easier to vote in federal elections, end congressional gerrymandering, reform the role of money in elections, and increase safeguards against foreign interference.
On April 30, 2021, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that he will not be supporting the For the People Act, the Democrat-backed election reform bill, although he said he’s supportive of many provisions within the legislation. Because Senator Manchin sits at the fulcrum of a 50/50 Senate, his opposition means that there are only two ways the For the People Act will pass in the Senate and end up on President Joe Biden‘s desk: if the Democrats can convince 10 Republicans to vote in favor of it, or if they eliminate the filibuster, an option Manchin has repeatedly denounced.
Election and security officials have lamented the sporadic attention and funding from Washington. Although Congress has agreed to support elections infrastructure around the nation, it does so in large, unpredictable chunks as opposed to predictable year-over-year appropriations – which many election officials would prefer. At the end of 2019, Congress allocated $425 million for election security. The funding was a compromise as Democrats had hoped for $600 million and then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated he would support $250 million. In 2018, Congress allocated $380 million toward election security improvements. The money, in both instances, is given via grants to the states, which become responsible for deciding how it is spent.