The League of Women Voters of Alaska would like to alert readers to the government reform bill HR 1 currently being heard in the U.S. House of Representatives. HR 1, For the People Act, is sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland and currently has 225 co-sponsors. HR 1 is being called the most serious government reform bill in four decades. Sarbanes describes the bill as a grassroots effort to strengthen our democracy. The League of Women Voters of Alaska strongly supports this bill.
The bill focuses on three main issues: voters rights, campaign financing and anti-corruption, and ethics reforms. Every eligible citizen has the right to vote in local, state and national elections. Speaking to this right, Sarbanes said recently in an online discussion of this bill that the voters should not be subjected to an “obstacle course” in their efforts to vote. Alaska already has embraced some of the reforms in HR 1, such as early voting, online registration, automatic registration through the PFD and elections that result in paper trails. Alaskans are fortunate to have one of the best state election systems in the country, and we might hope that all citizens would be that fortunate.
One area in the bill concerning voting rights that might assist Alaska is the emphasis on building capacity so that voters in high population areas will not face long lines on Election Day. Another is the bill’s support of independent redistricting commissions; unfortunately Alaska has had the last four redistricting efforts end up in the court system.
HR 1 will also improve the election process by increasing transparency and accountability in the use of “dark money,” campaign money for which the source is obscured, along with a strengthening of the Federal Election Commission or election funding oversight. Ethics reforms in HR 1 will strengthen the Office of Government Ethics (www.oge.gov), an independent agency educating the executive branch on conflicts of interest. HR 1 will also require tax returns for candidates seeking election as well as a tightening of lobbying activity for both domestic and foreign lobbyists.
HR 1 is a comprehensive effort to strengthen our democracy and deserves support from all members of Congress. The league urges all citizens to contact their elected officials in Washington, D.C. to support this reform package.
President, League of Women Voters of Alaska
• My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.