The House late Wednesday passed a sweeping elections bill to expand voter registration. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
March 4 (UPI) -- The House of Representatives late Wednesday passed election legislation that overhauls voter registration, expands mail-in and early voting and strengthens campaign finance laws and ethics enforcement.
The bill titled the For the People Act passed along party lines 220-210 with a single Democrat being the only one to cross the aisle, sending it to the divided Senate where it is expected to meet strong Republican opposition.
Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., introduced the bill in January in response to the 2020 presidential election, which he said in a statement forced Americans "to overcome rampant voter suppression, gerrymandering and a torrent of special-interest dark money" in order to vote.
"Our once-in-a-generation reform effort will end decades of dysfunction in Washington, return power to the people and build a more just, equitable and prosperous country for all Americans," he said in a statement following the Wednesday vote.
The bill's passing comes as Republican state lawmakers across the country pass bills to strengthen voter registration following President Joe Biden's defeat of former President Donald Trump in November, he said.
"At a time when Americans from across the political spectrum are demanding real change and accountability from their elected officials, it's more important than ever before to deliver on the promise of H.R.1 and restore faith in our democracy," he said. "We have no time to waste."
The bill is wide-ranging, affecting many aspects of voting from expanding access to ballots to ending partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts.
It will create automatic voter registration for all who are eligible, ensure the right to vote for those who have completed felony sentences, enhance federal support for voting security and tighten rules on super PACs, which are groups allowed to raise unlimited sums of money in support or opposition of political candidates or issues.
Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., said the bill will put U.S. democracy back in the hands of Americans.
"No matter what party you belong to or who you voted for recently, reforms like rooting out corruption and exposing dark money would benefit all of us," he tweeted after the House passed the measure.
House Republican Whip Steve Scalise said via Twitter that every American should be upset at the bill's passing as "Democrats just voted to ban voter ID nationwide and force every state to permanently expand mail-in voting."
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, on Monday told reporters that Biden is "happy" the House took up the bill, signaling he'd sign it if it lands on his desk by the Senate.
"The president is committed to protecting the fundamental right to vote and making easier for all eligible Americans to vote," she said. "His campaign was about fighting for democracy and we're going to continue to fight for democracy in the White House. That's why we need to pass reforms like H.R.1."
A similar bill passed the House last year, again along party lines in a 234-193 vote but failed to make it out of the Republican-controlled Senate.