The House has passed the "For the People Act," which aims to expand ballot access through a variety of measures. CBS News Capitol Hill producer Rebecca Kaplan joined CBSN with more on how the legislation could change the election system and why critics say it could hurt election security.
- The House has passed a significant voting rights bill known as For the People Act. The bill would require states to automatically register all eligible voters. It also limits states' ability to purge voter rolls and would restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences. It could become the most significant overhaul of the US election system in a generation. For more on this, I want to bring in CBS News Capitol Hill producer, Rebecca Kaplan. Rebecca, welcome. Great to see you. So break down for us what is in this bill and the larger significance of it.
REBECCA KAPLAN: Sure. Well, Tanya, like you mentioned a little bit, this is a potentially huge expansion of federal powers over voting if it were to pass the Senate. And voting and administering elections has long been the domain of the states. So we see a couple different things that states would be required to do. There's automatic voter registration and expansion of same day and online voter registration, and also requiring states to increase absentee voting for their voters in their states, which would, in theory, make it a lot easier for people to vote.
And of course, placing limitations on states' ability to purge voter rolls would potentially make it so that fewer people found themselves not registered when it came to election time. And that has become an issue that we've seen come up in states like Georgia. There's also a big ethics component to this legislation requiring more disclosure of donors to try to prevent so much secrecy around this idea of dark money in politics. There would be a public financing system created to allow for public matching for some congressional candidates.
And one other pretty significant thing is that it would require that states have independent commissions draw the boundaries of their congressional districts. And that's meant to prevent this idea of gerrymandering or drawing these districts that are very heavily tilted towards Democrats or Republicans. So this would be, if it were to pass, a pretty major change of our election system in the United States.
- So what has been the response from both Democrats and Republicans? We know that Republicans are in danger of becoming the party that looks like they are trying to restrict voting rights. I mean, they, of course, will argue that they're just trying to secure the voting system. But it's a fine line between trying to secure the voting system and appearing as if you're trying to get fewer people to actually be able to vote.
REBECCA KAPLAN: Absolutely, and that's one of the arguments we have seen Republicans make, is they say that all of these measures would make voting less secure because it would be more difficult to implement these types of voter ID laws that they have tried to implement in many states with Republican legislatures.
So they're saying that the voting system would become less safe and that it's a Democratic power grab, essentially, to just try to stay in power. That's a line we've heard from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who actually refused to take up this bill when it actually passed the House back in 2019 when Democrats controlled the House, but Republicans controlled the Senate. So he's certainly against it.
Democrats, on the other hand, are pretty much universally supportive of this legislation, passed with near universal support in the House last night. The one lone no vote surprisingly enough was Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat. The reason we were so surprised by that is because he was actually a co-sponsor of this bill, and he voted in favor of this legislation when it passed back in 2019.
But he said that his constituents actually didn't like the redistricting and public financing portions of the bill. Otherwise, though, Democrats say that this is really important to stop a lot of these Republican efforts to limit ballot access. And these kinds of federal measures really are necessary, especially to help people like minority voters, who often benefit from these kinds of systems that are designed to increase access to voting.
- And so this bill now goes to the Senate. Is it likely to pass there? Will this be a very partisan pass with Vice President Kamala Harris having to weigh in?
REBECCA KAPLAN: Well, here's the situation. Schumer, the Majority Leader in the Senate, has promised to take this up. And as the House named this kind of HR-1, signifying it's a big top legislative priority for them, for Democrats in the House, he's going to call this S-1 in the Senate, a similar measure of importance. Here's the problem, though. Democrats would need 10 Republicans, in addition to every single Democrat in the Senate, to sign on to this bill to get it to pass. And that's because of those filibuster rules in the Senate that you've heard a lot of progressives actually want to eliminate.
But the measure-- the path they're going to have to take for this legislation is to try to win the support of 10 Republicans. And frankly, the support just isn't there right now because of those concerns that Republicans are voicing about ballot security and all those other measures and accusing Democrats of trying to essentially create a federal takeover of elections that would benefit their own party. So it's looking extremely unlikely at this point that this is going to go anywhere in the Senate.
- All right, another bill that will languish in the Senate. All right, Rebecca Kaplan, thank you so much for joining us.